Speech Therapy for Homeschooled Children: What You Need to Know
There are many reasons why parents choose to homeschool their children. Perhaps you prioritize personal education, you have a strong religious affiliation, or you want to strengthen family bonding. Regardless, many of these reasons boil down to the fact that you want to be more personally involved in your child’s learning and development.
Fortunately, playing a strong role in your child’s learning is also vital to helping them develop strong speech and language skills. From babbling as a toddler, to your child’s first words, to more complex language skills, children learn to speak from those around them, namely their parents and guardians. As an at-home educator, you’re perfectly positioned to oversee their progress as they blossom into an effective communicator.
However, communication skills don’t come easy for many children. In fact, nearly 8% of children develop communication difficulties as they grow up and, in many cases, speech therapy is required to help them overcome these obstacles. While there can be many benefits to homeschooling, it can also present additional challenges (and opportunities) for children with a speech and language disorder. What are your options, where do you turn for help, and how do you navigate the complexities of seeking care?
Before we dive in, let’s start with some of the basics:
When Is Speech Therapy Needed?
Having strong foundational communication skills is vital to a child’s academic, social, and emotional success. It helps children express themselves, understand others, and interpret the world around them.
Each child follows their own developmental timeline. While some have no problem picking up language (and seemingly start talking a mile a minute overnight), others need some additional help reaching age-appropriate milestones.
The specific difficulties children face can vary widely, from problems with stuttering, speech delays, pronunciation of sounds and letters, literacy and reading readiness, language comprehension, social skills, voice disorders, and more.
Generally, the earlier these issues can be evaluated and treated, the more progress children will make towards reaching their goals. Therefore, as a homeschooling parent, it’s important to be proactive and vigilant if you notice your child is struggling with speech. This is compounded by the fact that your child is not regularly seeing school teachers, or nurses, or administrators, who in other circumstances may also pick up on these issues early on.
Providing Effective Speech Therapy From Home
Homeschooling parents have several options when seeking speech therapy services. Let’s cover a few:
- Individualized Education Program
In a public school setting, children with speech and language issues often qualify for speech therapy under the school’s special education program. These children are also eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a treatment plan tailored to their needs to help access their curriculum.
How and when this applies to a homeschool model is highly dependent on the state in which you reside and your local school district. Unfortunately, the federal government, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), only funds less than 15% of special education programs. States are then left to pick up the rest of the tab for these programs, giving them full power to decide how – and if – this they choose to allocate funding to homeschooled children with special needs.
To see if you qualify for these programs in your state and any special provisions that may apply, start by contacting the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and researching their website. You can also contact your state and local government to ask about laws pertaining to special education and homeschooling, as well as any local advocacy groups.
- Private Speech Therapy
Attending a private speech therapy clinic is another option. However, with many homeschooling parents preferring to receive instruction at home, you can also select to receive speech therapy online.
With online speech therapy, all services are delivered virtually through video chat. Think Zoom or FaceTime, but on the only end of the call is a licensed and experienced speech-language pathologist (SLP), which is the most qualified profession to help assess, diagnose, and treat speech and language disorders.
Online speech therapy had already been increasing in popularity. However, due to COVID-19, it has recently seen an explosion in growth. And for good reason. Online speech therapy is generally more affordable than traditional, in-person therapy. It’s also much more convenient (there’s no long commuting times or sitting in a waiting room), and more accessible for families that live in rural or remote areas.
I’d recommend finding an online provider that prioritizes building strong parent-therapist relationships. Improving speech and language abilities is just like learning any other skill – it requires diligent, at-home practice. Make sure your speech therapist is committed to providing you with strategies and techniques so you can reinforce best practices learned during the sessions at home.
- Home Practice
If your child’s communication issues are more minor, I suggest looking online for helpful exercises that you can incorporate into your daily life. There are many great resources out there, from Mommy Speech Therapy to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, to Speech and Language Kids. I’ve also write my own blog that contains helpful parenting exercises, such as how to naturally model language and ways to incorporate household items into natural language development. There’s a ton of wonderful resources on the internet, so do your research, ask lots of questions, and give your child the support they need to flourish into a strong communicator.
About Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP:
Leanne calls Austin, Texas home but studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master’s in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. Leanne is currently the President and Founder of Expressable online speech therapy, a company that envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access these vital services. You can check out her blog here.