If you become concerned about your child’s speech and language skills, you might be wondering if they are able to get speech therapy through their school. The good news is, they can! However, some parents find the process of navigating speech therapy in the school system confusing. This blog post goes over some FAQ’s about speech therapy in the school system and will hopefully answer some questions you might have as you go through this process with your child.

How do I know if my child’s speech is developing age appropriately?
There are many resources available to determine typical speech and language development in young children.

  • The American Speech and Language Association (ASHA) asha.org
  • The California Speech and Hearing Association (CSHA) csha.org
  • Growingchild.com
  • The Stuttering Foundation stutteringhelp.org

At what age can my child be assessed for speech therapy in the public schools?
Your child is eligible for a speech and language assessment at your school district of residence when they are three years old.

How do I get the assessment?
The best way is to contact the Speech-Language Pathologist (often referred to as an SLP) at your school of attendance.  They will be able to help you determine if an assessment is appropriate and the procedures to request the assessment.  Be prepared to complete registration procedures including current immunizations.

What if I don’t know what school’s attendance area I live in?School illustration
Most school district websites have a tool for determining in which school attendance area you live.  If they do not, you can call the nearest school to you and they will be able to tell you the school based on your address.

What kinds of things can the Speech-Language Pathologist assess?
The areas that can be assessed by the Speech-Language Pathologist include:

  • How well your child understands what is said to them.
  • How well your child is able to put their thoughts and ideas into words.
  • Whether the length and complexity of your child’s speech is age appropriate.
  • The intelligibility of your child’s speech and whether the sounds they produce are age appropriate.
  • Whether your child stutters.
  • Whether your child has an abnormal vocal pitch or quality.

How long can I expect the assessment process to take?
The state and federal governments provide guidelines on the time that is allowed for portions of the assessment process.

  • The district is required to respond to your request for an assessment (oral or written) within 10 calendar days. This could mean offering an assessment plan for you to sign, having a meeting to discuss concerns and/or participating in a student success program.
  • Once an assessment plan is signed, the district has 60 calendar days in which to complete the assessment and convene an IEP meeting to review the results of the assessment. Don’t be surprised if it takes the entire 60 days.
  • Once the IEP is signed, services will begin as specified on the IEP.
  • Don’t wait until the end of the school year to request an assessment. Services are suspended when school is not in session.  If you have a preschool age child that you want to have services by kindergarten, you need to start the process months before the end of the school year.

What is an IEP?
An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan.  It is the document that is completed at the IEP meeting which documents the assessment results and the recommendations made for your child.  If your child is found to be eligible for services, it will specify what those services will be including goals, length of services and the frequency of the services.

My child has a speech problem, why didn’t they qualify?
The state and federal governments provide guidelines on what qualifies a student for Special Education Services.  Students must exhibit a severe enough disability in order to qualify for services.  Your SLP can best provide you with details of eligibility under Speech and Language Impairment.

Wait, I don’t want my child in Special Education!
Special Education is a large umbrella of services provided by public schools.  Speech Therapy is one of those services.

What if my child attends a private school?
Services for students who attend private school varies from district to district.  Minimally you can have your child assessed.  The type of services that can be offered will depend on the district.

My child has been assessed and qualifies for services.  What now?
It is important that you keep the paperwork regarding your child’s assessment and services in a convenient place.  Some parents make a binder, some have a file folder to keep everything together.   Your IEP is a legal document and good in any school in the United States and its territories.  If you were to move, it can be most time efficient to take a copy of your student’s IEP directly to your new school of residence.  So, don’t pack it away!  It will speed up the process of implementing your child’s services at the new school.  If you don’t have a copy to provide the new school, it can take time for the paperwork to be transferred between districts.

My child gets speech therapy in the schools can they also get private therapy?
Yes.  Also, receiving private speech therapy services such as with SenseAbilities does not prevent your child from receiving school-based services if they qualify.  Keep in mind that qualifying for one provider does not automatically mean the child will qualify for another.

Christina Boyd, M.S., CCC-SLP

Christina Boyd