Written by Lisa A. Scott, Ph.D.
Should My Child Attend Speech Therapy?
Stuttering can become a lifelong part of talking for some people. However, it does not have to interfere with your child's ability to make friends, participate in the classroom, make good grades, form lasting relationships, or achieve career goals.
Deciding whether to take your child to speech therapy can be a difficult decision, however. Many parents are concerned that taking a child to therapy will increase his or her awareness of the stuttering and thus have a negative effect, or are unsure about the best time to start their child in therapy especially when they get conflicting advice about whether to "wait and see" versus take action. Adding to the confusion, research suggests that as many as 70% of all children who start stuttering will outgrow it on their own with no speech therapy. But, research also indicates that if a child has been stuttering longer than one year, the likelihood that he or she will outgrow it without any speech therapy is reduced.
Unfortunately, there are no firm guidelines about the best time to start therapy although most speech-language pathologists will recommend starting therapy within 6-12 months after you have first noticed the stuttering. One thing we do know, though, is that all children can benefit from therapy, although the outcomes are different for different children.
As a result of speech therapy, some children are able to eliminate stuttering completely. Others learn strategies that help them stutter less, while yet other children learn to talk in a way that is easier and less tense even though some stuttering is still noticeable. Most importantly, all children can learn to become more confident in their speaking skills no matter how much stuttering they may still have.
Deciding to take your child to stuttering therapy is an important step in helping your child. Once you have made this decision, getting information about stuttering and stuttering therapy will help you decide:
- The speech-language pathologist who is right for you and your child;
- The amount, length, and cost of treatment;
- Possible goals for speech therapy; and,
- The amount of success to be expected.
Choosing a Speech-Language Pathologist
The key to success with any kind of treatment is finding someone who is knowledgeable about that particular treatment. This is especially true of stuttering.
How do you find a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who is right for you and your child? First, learn as much as you can about stuttering so you will know whether the SLP you choose is also knowledgable about childhood stuttering. You may even want to read more about stuttering therapy. This website offers information about stuttering and stuttering therapy, as do many of the products we offer to families.
Also, use a referral source. Our list of therapists has names of people who specialize in treating stuttering. If one is not located near you, contact a local university, hospital, or speech and hearing clinic. Universities that have training programs in speech pathology often have a speech clinic that will provide therapy for stuttering.
Your local school district is required by federal law (IDEA) to offer speech therapy to children who are eligible. Contact your local school district's special education department to find out more about having your child screened and evaluated for stuttering.
Once you've contacted a speech pathologist, interview them. There are many important questions you will want to ask, but a few in particular are very important.
- How comfortable are you with evaluating and treating stuttering? This is important because some speech pathologists are not comfortable working with stuttering.
- How many children who stutter have you worked with? This will help you determine whether the speech pathologist has the kind of experience you need.
- What do you think the primary goals of stuttering therapy should be for a child? This will help you decide whether the speech pathologist's ideas about goals match your own.
- What approaches do you use in speech therapy? How often is therapy scheduled? It's important that the therapy be scheduled at a time that will work well for you, your child, and the SLP. Sometimes the therapy schedule the speech pathologist offers will not work for you because of your job, your child's naptime, or other family commitments. Getting to therapy should not be extremely inconvenient or stressful.
- What do you believe the parents' role should be in speech therapy? For most children, the degree of success they will experience in therapy is directly related to the amount of support they receive from their families in making necessary changes. Finding a speech-language pathologist who believes that you have a crucial role in therapy and is willing to help you learn how to best help your child is an important part of this process.
Therapy Amount, Length, and Cost
The amount of stuttering therapy needed and length of time involved are related to each other and are usually different for each child. The decision about how much therapy is needed and how often it should be scheduled is usually made following a stuttering evaluation.
If you seek services through your local school district and your child is found eligible, the evaluation and any needed therapy will be free. However, if you seek services from a speech pathologist in private practice or working in a clinic, you will have to pay yourself or have services billed through your insurance. A thorough evaluation usually ranges from two to four hours and may cost between $300 and $500, depending on your location and the speech pathologist's charges. These charges can vary greatly, so be sure to ask about costs when making the initial call to the speech pathologist. Also, check to see if your health insurance covers the cost of the evaluation. (You may want to read SFA's Guide to Obtaining Reimbursement for Stuttering Treatment.)
Once you've completed the evaluation process, the speech pathologist will explain your results to you and together the two of you will begin thinking about the length of time that you can expect your child to be in therapy and how often it should be scheduled. Therapy length and amount needed depend on your child's needs, the type of therapy itself, and the severity of the stuttering problem.
Hourly therapy charges generally range from $50.00 to $125.00 dollars. Again, these charges will depend on your location and the speech pathologist's charges per hour; local university speech and hearing clinics often charge less because of their training mission. At many university programs, it is possible to get an evaluation and therapy at lower rates than those listed here. However, if your child is receiving therapy through your school district, there will be no charge.
If you take your child to speech therapy with a speech-language pathologist working in private practice or through a local clinic, contact your insurance company before you get an evaluation or go for therapy to find out whether they cover stuttering therapy. It's important to ask about stuttering therapy in particular because many insurance companies will pay for speech therapy that is restorative (i.e., after a stroke or brain injury), but may not pay for stuttering therapy when it's viewed as a chronic speech disability.
Expectations for Success
We hear from many parents who are concerned that stuttering therapy may not help their child. If your child has stuttered longer than a year, it is less likely that the stuttering will ever go away completely. However, a speech pathologist who is knowledgeable about stuttering can almost always help children who stutter make positive changes in how they talk.
As you work with the speech pathologist to meet your child's goals, you will also set your criteria for success. Becoming an effective communicator and living successfully with stuttering should be among the most important of these criteria.
Goals for Therapy
Stuttering therapy for children usually means learning to talk in an easier manner, and to build positive emotions, and attitudes about talking. As a result, length and type of therapy can vary greatly depending on your child's needs. A list of sample therapy goals for children includes:
- Reducing the frequency of stuttering;
- Decreasing the tension and struggle of stuttering moments;
- Working to decrease word or situation avoidances;
- Learning more about stuttering; and,
- Using effective communication skills such as eye contact or phrasing.
Working together with a speech pathologist who is knowledgeable about stuttering will help your child learn to talk successfully and well.
The above material was compiled by Lisa Scott-Trautman, Ph.D.