If your child is not meeting their developmental milestones, you may find yourself looking for a speech and language pathologist (SLP). Most referrals for speech therapy will come from a child’s pediatrician or teacher. People who know your child and understand child development. Either with a referral or your own concerns, finding the right speech and language pathologist (SLP) can be a daunting task. You may be asking yourself ‘where do I begin?’. When selecting an SLP, here are some suggestions to find the right fit for you.

  • Location
  • Payment/Insurance
  • Certification
  • Training
  • Experience
  • Therapy style(s)

Think About Logistics

First off, consider the logistical factors. Are you looking for services within the school district, with a private clinic, or both? How you intend to fund services? Once you have the answers to these questions, the search narrows down.

Location

First, look for SLPs who are close to home.Then consider where you would like services to occur. Pediatric SLPs practice in homes, private clinics, in solo private practice, and schools. If it is important to you to be seen in your home, for example, this factor could begin to narrow your selection. If a school setting is preferable, contact your school district for more information on receiving these services.

Payment

If your insurance covers speech and language therapy, you can begin to search for SLPs who accept your insurance plan (considered ‘In network’). Most SLPs can provide a ‘superbill’ which can be submitted for possible reimbursement if they don’t take your insurance. If you intend to pay out of pocket, search for SLPs who offer a private pay option. If your child is under 3, you can pursue early intervention (EI) services. Many states and counties offer EI services free or discounted (Find San Diego and Imperial County information here). Oftentimes choices are further limited by outside factors including scheduling and availability, so consider what areas are flexible and what areas are not. 

So what are other factors to consider, as you select the right SLP for your child?

Quality

Certification & Licensure

It is important to find an SLP who is licensed in your state. It is also ideal to find an SLP who has current ASHA certification (look for CCC-SLP after their signature, or CFY-SLP if they are recent graduates). To determine ASHA certification go to asha.org and search by name. To determine state licensure in California, go to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). For all other states, search your state name and “SLP license verification” in your favorite browser.

Training

All SLPs have either a Master’s degree or a PhD in the area of communication sciences. But, SLPs are in charge of selecting their own continuing education and specialized training, following their graduate programs. If your child has areas of need that may require specialized training or certification, it is important to determine if the SLP you are contacting has additional training in that area. These areas may include feeding therapy, treatment for motor speech disorders such as apraxia of speech, specialized training in the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AAC), or training in specific programs such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or PROMPT (PROMPTS for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets). Although training in these areas may not be necessary for effective treatment, it is worth asking about specialized training based on your child’s needs.

Experience

It is important to note that experience does not always mean advanced skill or training. That doesn’t mean there is no value to having experience but rather that it should not be the only factor you use when looking for an SLP. Similar to pediatricians or general practitioners, speech language pathologists may have broad education and experience or more specialized education and experience. This does not determine a ‘good SLP’ versus a ‘bad SLP’ but may be an important factor in your decision making process. If you choose to ask questions about experience, be open to their response, as an SLP with less experience may still be a great fit for your child.

Therapy Style(s)

Speech and language therapy sessions should be individualized to meet the needs of each child. However, all SLPs bring their own individual approach and personalities to the therapy room and to each session. Some therapy sessions may include structured tabletop activities, which look similar to lessons provided in classroom settings. Others may include a less structured approach including play-based or child-led activities. Some SLPs are more animated when working with younger clients, while others appear calmer. No one approach is best, and most pediatric SLPs modify their therapy style based on the client. However, if you feel your child thrives with structure or requires a more child-led approach, or responds well to a more animated adult, it is important to find a professional who can meet the needs of your child and establish a strong rapport in therapy.

Personality

As I mentioned before, it is important to find someone who is the right fit for your child and for your family. In this case, trust your instincts as a parent and find an SLP who connects with your child.

The Right Fit

Speech therapy

When your child attends therapy, it really is a family matter. You, your spouse or partner, your other children, and sometimes even grandparents attend therapy sessions. Whether you sit in the room and observe, or wait in the waiting room, you will all find yourselves impacted by the therapeutic relationship that develops in that setting. An SLP with all of the right training and expertise may not be a good fit for your child if they are not able to establish a strong rapport or therapeutic relationship. It is important to trust your instincts as a parent and find an SLP who connects with your child.

Questions to ask the SLP:

  • What training and/or experience do they have that pertains to the needs of your child?
  • How do they pursue continuing education if needed to meet the needs of your child?
  • Do they have specific areas of expertise?
  • Are they certified by ASHA?
  • Are they licensed in your state?
  • What age ranges do they serve?
  • Do they accept your insurance?
  • What are their private pay rates?
  • What does an evaluation look like, what can you expect?
  • How do you include parents/families in the process?
  • What does a typical therapy session look like?
  • Do they have a waitlist?

In conclusion, there are many factors when considering the right SLP for your child. While some factors may be out of your control (ex. insurance), you are ultimately looking to find an SLP who is able to work with your child to create a positive therapy experience. You know your child best and are the right person to help them find the SLP who is a perfect fit.

If you’re looking for an SLP in San Diego, check out our directory of therapists in the area.

Cocoa Berry
Author: Cocoa Berry