The first thing to know about speech therapy is who you go to.
Many people think that you go to a speech therapist. However, that is actually wrong.
The field you and your child may get help from is called speech language pathology, and the Speech Language Pathologist is the clinician who specializes in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of communication disorders, cognition, voice disorders, and swallowing disorders.
In many areas, Speech Language Pathologists may operate in a private practice or in a public practice. My examples of each below are back on my experiences in Toronto. While both private and public will likely exist in your area, the specifics may vary.
Just like it sounds, a Speech Language Pathologist that runs a private practice is not covered by any government health plan, but will have to be paid by you directly (although you may be able to reclaim some of the cost through any private insurance you have).
The cost will vary, but I've seen it run from $120 to $160 and hour. When they assess your child you will pay a bit more (as they do a report for you), and then all other sessions are the same price.
The sessions will be dedicated to you and your toddler, with one Speech Language Therapist coaching you.
A public session with a Speech Language Therapy is covered by your government's public health plan (if your area/country has one).
While you don't have to pay anything, you will almost certainly have a long wait. When we signed Becca up for public therapy, the wait list was 10 months long. I've also seen articles for similar wait or longer in different countries, so this is a common occurrence.
The session will also be different. With public therapy, you will often get a group session. You and your toddler will be in sessions with 4-8 kids, each having a parent with them. However, there may be 2 Speech Language Pathologists, and perhaps 1-2 Speech Language Pathology students helping.
Cost vs. Time
While this is obvious, I believe it is important to note that you will need to make a hard tradeoff in many cases.
Do you want to spend a lot of money (as you will likely need 6-8 sessions minimum costing you $720.00 to $1,280.00)?
Or are you willing to be on a long wait list while your child needs help? That wait could be a few months, or as long as a year or more.
Even worse is that for those families who live in more rural areas and smaller communities, you may have only one of these options locally, if not none of them. Then your option would be a long drive for each session regardless of the option available to you.
But there is a way to avoid the high cost and long wait.
I will show you how to further below.
A Speech Therapy Session
I want to tell you what actually happens in a speech therapy session so you aren't surprised like I was.
I went to the first one thinking that maybe it was like a psychiatrist. I would bring Becca for a session and I'd wait around in another room. Or perhaps like a doctor's office, where I'm there for support but the main interaction is between Becca and the Speech Language Pathologist.
I was very wrong here.
The speech therapy if FOR YOU, the parent!
Well, sort of.
In both cases, the initial session is an assessment of your child. It will start with some information you'll provide them ahead of time (age, words spoken, how they are with the development milestones, etc).
Then you will have a private session with you, your child, and the Speech Language Pathologist (it's a private session for assessment whether you take a public or private route). They will spend an hour or so interacting with your child and watching you interacting with your child. At the end of the session, they will give a high level view of where your child is at and when should happen next, and then you will get a more detailed report after.
If you are using private therapy, you will then do periodic (we were weekly) sessions for 1 hour. You will go there and they will play with your child a bit, showing you a core technique to use to help develop their speech, and then you will play with your child using that technique and they will coach you on how you use it. There could be some back and forth on who is interacting with your child.
In a public group therapy session, my experience was this. It was an 8 week program (excluding the assessment which happened before).
The first and fourth weeks consisted of course work. We (all the parents) were in a classroom without our kids, for 1.5 hours long. The Speech Language Pathologists spend the time instructing us on several techniques to use with our children, through videos, power point presentations, and discussion.
The all the other weeks we all came to a large room (with our child) with various play areas. We would then play with our kids while using the techniques, and the Speech Language Pathologists came around to help coach us.
And that is what you will get from speech therapy for your toddler (based on my experience with Becca, who was a mild case with a basic underlying issue).
Speech therapy is designed for the PARENT to use the the techniques at home.
Your child will not get better from a handful of sessions.
Your child WILL GET BETTER by consistently using the speech language techniques at HOME over time.
Further down I have an outline of the general strategies you can use at home.
Then I'll show you how to get all the lessons you will need to start helping your child at home.