My 8-year-old has always had trouble saying her Rs properly. I had read helpful books from the library and watched YouTube videos by speech therapists to try to help her on my own. Still, she couldn't get the sound out right. I felt a little like a failure, and I didn't like the idea of my daughter growing up with a stigma (as she was becoming more conscience of her problem).
I took her to the local school district for testing and services just over a year ago. When I took her, she was still 7, and the therapists there said she did not qualify for needing their services. It seems that the R sound, in their book of standards, is not a required milestone until you are 8. So, with limited funds and not a lot of options in the area where we lived at the time, I resolved I'd take her back in a year to be tested again.
Fast forward one year, and now we've moved to a different area. I knew it was time to get professional help. I called the local school system and was told that there was a two month waiting list for testing. That would put us well into summer, after schools are out, so speech classes likely wouldn't be available until the fall.
I called a local private speech therapist who had good online ratings. She was able to test her within a week. She said after her testing that my daughter was ready for immediate assistance.
She didn't just listen to her speak and test her hearing, though. She did a thorough inspection of tongue movements, and she recommended a frenectomy based on her findings. She had me get another referral from our orthodontist. He looked at her as well and came to the same conclusion. My daughter needed the frenectomy. She had lived her 8 years on this earth being somewhat tongue-tied. Now, there was a medical reason (ankyloglossia) for her inability to properly articulate her Rs.
An oral surgeon removed the extra tissue underneath her tongue, and within minutes, I could already tell a difference in her speech. She can even now roll her tongue (something only she and my husband can do so far in our family). No, the frenectomy didn't solve all her problems. However, without the procedure, any speech therapy would have been ineffective in treating her problem.
So far, we've now been to 4 private speech sessions, and I can tell a noticable difference in her speech. She hasn't "graduated" yet, and there is still work to be done, but we are well on our way to solving the "R" problem.
As a summary, here's my conclusion of why private services are better than government services (and this probably applies to more areas than just speech therapy):
1. Testing: The testing in the private practice was more inclusive than what the school district had provided. Not only was her speech tested in the private firm, but her hearing was evaluated (twice), and her eating/drinking habits were observed. I got a detailed 5-page report from the private firm, explaining her test and her mastery levels on the tasks. The school district gave me a one page report saying she didn't qualify and could come back in a year to be tested (and some verbal advice to not let my daughter use drinking straws).
2. Therapy: I can only speak for the private side of the actual therapy, but our experience so far has been stellar. After each 30-45 minute private 1-on-1 session my daughter has with her therapist, I also get to speak 1-on-1 with her to get a recap of the session, as well as homework for the next week and tips to help my daughter reach mastery of the next goal/task. (If I were using services inside a public school, I am not sure my daughter would get as much 1-on-1 time, and the time the parent gets with the therapist I am assuming would be minimal.)
I know not all school districts are the same, but I can say as for our experience, free is not always better. Private speech therapy is money well-spent.
Check my blog tomorrow for Part 2 to our "Adventures in Speech Therapy," where I'll share with you the lessons I've learned as a parent.
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