8 questions to ask to find affordable speech therapy
by Amanda Owens, speech language pathologist · Aug 25, 2022
First of two parts.
Finding affordable pediatric speech therapy can take some digging.
The affordability of therapy for families varies widely, whether through private or government-funded resources. This is especially true for developmental speech therapy, which is not related to a diagnosis of autism or childhood apraxia of speech, a neurological disorder.
So how do you find the best financial fit if you need speech-therapy services for your child?
I conducted two surveys this past spring because I wanted a better understanding of the cost of pediatric speech therapies for families. One survey I sent to parents of children with speech and language delays. The other went to private practice owners offering speech therapy services. I received 81 responses to each survey.
From the survey results, I settled on great questions for parents to ask before signing up with a therapist or program.
1. “Is there a cost?”
Public school districts provide evaluations and treatment at no direct cost to consumers, though homeschoolers and private school students are not always served equally or at all. However, it may be worth looking into if your child is school age, typically 3 to 18 years old. If your child is 3 years old or younger, consider checking out your state’s early intervention program. Some states provide for the entire expense in their budgets, and others use income-based sliding scales with family fees on a per-session basis.
2. “How much do you charge per evaluation?”
Survey responses reported that the most common speech-therapy evaluation costs were $150 to $250. However, reported prices ranged from less than $150 for speech sound or “articulation” evaluations to over $500 for specialty areas like feeding/swallowing and dyslexia.
Since an evaluation has a one-time fee, it may be worth considering a provider offering a lower rate for treatment, even if the evaluation rate is higher. Though the upfront cost of the evaluation might be higher, the overall cost of therapy and evaluation combined may be lower. The exception would be if a provider requires regular re-evaluations as a condition of continuing treatment. You can ask about re-evaluations before scheduling with the provider.
3. “Do you offer any discounts, group treatment options, or treatment packages?”
Several practices reported discounts from military to “prompt pay” or a sliding scale based on income.
Group treatment can motivate your child with peer participation or offer parent coaching through a “mommy and me” camp for late talkers. Some speech-language pathologists (SLPs) offer “group therapy” for families with multiple children with speech therapy needs.
The affordability of therapy for families varies widely, whether through private or government-funded resources.
Treatment packages boasted of perks such as a prepay discount or additional access to the SLP through recorded video content for parent training in addition to more traditional treatment sessions.
4. “Are grants/scholarship programs available?”
Yes! There are grants and scholarship programs, and they may be worth a look, depending on your family’s situation and your child’s needs. By asking your SLP directly, you may get the inside scoop on grants and scholarships available in your area.
Though government-sponsored scholarships can benefit your family financially by paying for all or part of your child’s treatment with government funding, therapy providers and families must register with the state for services to be reimbursed. Families can ask their state agency what information is required and retained as part of the government-sponsored scholarship process.
If you homeschool, you may want to check out the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA.org). HSLDA’s Compassion Curriculum Grants for homeschooled children with special needs is part of the organization’s effort to keep homeschooling independent from government funding.
5. “How much do you charge per session?”
In the SLP survey, 91 percent of private practice owners indicated consistent pricing for an hour of speech therapy.
The most common range reported was $100 to $150 per therapy hour (43 percent reporting). Another 40 percent of the private practice owners surveyed indicated that they charged $100 or less for an hour of speech therapy. This was less than the fair price indicated for my Indiana location by the handy Healthcare Bluebook™ feature I accessed via the Samaritan Dashboard ($177 with a range of $142-$443).1
6. “How long are the sessions? How often does my child need to be seen?”
It was not uncommon in survey responses to see higher prices “per hour” for a 30- or 45-minute session due to the logistical difficulty that a shorter session causes practice owners.
Asking questions helps you find the best fit for your family, wherever that is. When you find a great fit, it shows in the therapy … and that should make everyone happy.
However, a shorter session may still be your best fit if your child has a shorter attention span or you simply need to stay within a set budget.
Another factor to consider is the frequency of service. It may be less out of pocket by scheduling sessions less often. Some SLPs are flexible.
7. “Do you offer parent training and/or home programs?”
Home programs and parent training are some of the best ways to get “bang for your buck” by increasing the progress made and potentially decreasing the overall time your child spends in speech therapy. Excellent research supports “parent-implemented intervention” that goes beyond getting a worksheet sent home every week. If you’re happy with your SLP but they don’t allow parents in the room during sessions, consider reading a book or taking an online course for parents to support speech therapy at home. We will outline available options in a future newsletter.
8. “Do you require re-evaluations? If so, how often?”
Some practices (private and hospital-based) require regular re-evaluations to assess for progress and reassess whether further treatment is needed. That can add up, so it’s another cost to consider.
Throughout the process, don’t be shy about the money stuff. Asking questions helps you find the best fit for your family, wherever that is. When you find a great fit, it shows in the therapy … and that should make everyone happy.
Samaritan Ministries member Amanda Owens is a homeschool mom, public school speech-language pathologist, and private practice owner of Illuminate Communicate.
The information provided in this article is for educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. It is the opinion of the writer. The information is not meant to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health professional.