So your pediatrician has recommended that you get your child evaluated for speech therapy. Now what? Who do you call? And how much is this going to cost?
For any age, private speech therapy is always an option. As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) who has worked in all of the settings below, I would highly recommend going the private route. Why? Well let's start by talking about the public options for speech therapy by age.
If your child is under 3 years old, then he or she can qualify for early intervention. This varies by state. Check out this website to find your state's program. Usually, early intervention speech therapists will visit your home for the evaluation and therapy sessions. Cost varies, but in Utah cost is determined on a sliding scale based on income. Visits are usually less frequent than what you would get through private therapy.
If your child is 3 years or older, then he or she will fall into the local school district's jurisdiction. So if your child is in school, ask to talk to the special education department head. If your child is too young, find the number for the preschool testing or special education testing department. Speech therapy through the district is free if you live in that district, but often districts will have waitlists to start testing. Some states do not include homeschooled students, and each state will also have guidelines for how low your child needs to be to qualify for therapy. If your child does qualify, there is a good chance that he or she will be seen in a group rather than one-on-one. There is also a chance that your child will be treated directly by a Speech-Language Technician or Assistant, who has less education and qualifications than a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).
Private speech therapy is for all ages, although some SLPs will choose to treat only certain ages or certain disorders. You can verify this by checking their website or giving them a call. Private speech therapy is more expensive, but what you get for that investment is much more attention to you and your child. You also have much more flexibility in guidelines for qualification, so if your child is not quite far enough behind to qualify for early intervention or school district services but you don't want to wait for them to fall back even further, private therapy is definitely the route to go. Last, you as a paying customer have much more say in your child's goals and usually have the ability to attend sessions and apply the techniques at home, which will lead to much faster progress.
Private therapy includes services out of people's homes, private clinics, and hospital pediatric clinics. Some accept insurance, and some do not. Be sure to ask about both insurance rates and private pay rates! I have heard from a few families that if they have not met their deductible for the year, insurance rates can sometimes be higher than private pay rates. Also, be sure to contact your own insurance directly to see how much they will cover (if they will cover it) and if there is a cap on total sessions for the year.
To find a private speech therapist, ask around, perhaps on your neighborhood Facebook page. You can also just Google "SLP near me". If you're local to Utah, I HIGHLY recommend Sunrise Speech Therapy ;). Costs for private therapy vary by area, so the best way to find pricing is to check websites or call directly.
Keep in mind- you are always able to have your child in public AND private speech therapy at the same time. It's just best to let both therapists know so that they can collaborate.
In summary, perhaps the only con to private speech therapy is the higher cost. In every other area, you will have much more attention and flexibility. But whatever you decide for your family, remember that you as the parent are the single most important part of your child's life, and you will have a much greater impact than what form of therapy you choose.