"My child doesn't qualify for speech-language therapy services at school, does this mean my child won't be able to receive private therapy either?"
The short answer is "No, not necessarily!"
Before taking the plunge and opening up my own private practice, I worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist in the school systems in Colorado and Ohio.
First, I would like to say THANK YOU to the school-based SLPS out there who work so incredibly hard to serve (often an unreasonable amount of) students with a wide variety of communication needs. Working in a school is hard work. There are only so many hours in the school day-let alone few times when students can be seen for therapy (think lunch break, gym, assemblies, etc. are out).
I have heard of districts where one SLP may have a caseload of 70+ students and is expected to conduct additional screenings, evaluations, write Individualized Education Plans, conduct team meetings, complete paperwork, plan therapy, and on and on...
If every kindergarten student with "r" difficulties or a lisp were added to that one SLP's (not magician's) caseload...well, you get the point.
This is where eligibility criteria in the school system comes in. I hope to help explain the key difference between determining if a child is eligible to receive speech-language services in the school versus a private practice. Since I am in Ohio, I will be commenting only on Ohio's eligibility criteria.
School-based SLPs in Ohio must follow guidelines developed by the Ohio Department of Education.
As written in the Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities, rule 3301-51-01, paragraph (B) (d) (xi), " "Speech or language impairment" means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance."
I underlined last phrase, because in short, that is the key difference between determining if a child is an appropriate candidate for school based services or private therapy.
For example, a first grade student who thrives academically and socially, but presents with a distorted /s/ and is motivated to improve their speech, may be a great candidate for private speech-language therapy. However, the same student may not be an appropriate candidate for school-based services, because their speech sound error is not negatively impacting their educational performance (e.g spelling, reading, writing, willingness to participate in oral language activities within the classroom).
Another example of a child who may not qualify for school services but may be an appropriate candidate for private therapy, would be a second-grader who sometimes mumbles and has difficulty with only certain variations of "r" sounds. If the (hypothetical) child's reading, writing, spelling, and oral communication skills are not negatively impacted within the classroom, and teachers and peers can understand the child, there is no adverse affect to the child's educational performance.
Does this mean the child wouldn't benefit from speech-language therapy? Absolutely not! The above examples illustrate times when I would encourage parents to reach out to a private practice SLP. As a private practice SLP, I am able to treat even mild speech-language impairments that may not adversely affect a child's educational performance.
If you have concerns regarding your child's speech-language skills, contact an SLP in your area to schedule a consultation.