Top 5 Considerations When Hiring a Speech-Language Pathologist
1. Proper Accreditation
A speech-language pathologist in Ontario, must be registered with the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario (CASLPO). Speech-language pathologists must have a Master’s degree in the field of speech language pathology. A communication disorders assistant (CDA) or an applied behaviour analyst (ABA) therapist is NOT a speech-language pathologist. In order to be reimbursed for speech therapy from your insurance company, you must hire a registered speech-language pathologist.
2. Relevant Experience
The key word here is “relevant”. It will do you little good to hire a speech-language pathologist who has 20+ years of experience if that experience is with an entirely different type of population than what your needs are. For example, if you have a preschooler, or a child with Autism, you will be searching for a speech-language pathologist who has experience treating many preschoolers, or many children with Autism. If that speech-language pathologist with 20+ years of experience has worked mainly in the school board; he or she may have little or no experience providing treatment to preschoolers or children with Autism. Therefore quantity of “relevant” experience is an essential criteria. The expression “no two children are alike” is absolutely true! When searching for a speech-language pathologist, avoid that therapist who has experience with “one or two children” who are relevant to your child. You are looking for a speech-language pathologist who has had an entire caseload of children relevant to your child! The more clients we have seen who are similar in diagnosis to your child or loved one, the more difficult cases we have come across, and the more problem solving we have had to do to find a treatment approach which works and gets results!
Look for a company who places the highest priority on MATCHING the proper therapist with a specific client based on the speech-language pathologist’s area of experience. There are many private speech-language pathologists who work as sole practitioners; but it is next to impossible to “specialize” in every distinct area of our field. A company which has multiple speech-language pathologists can thoughtfully match your child or loved one to a therapist who is the best fit. Alternatively, some companies may be so large (over 50 therapists) that a thoughtful matching of therapist to client is not possible. A team of 12-25 therapists is ideal.
3. Multiple Treatment Approaches
The best speech-language pathologists are the ones who have experience with more than one treatment approach for the same disorder. Since no two children or adults are exactly alike, a therapist who has training in several different types of treatment approaches will be able to tailor the therapy to optimize results for each client. For example, if a speech-language pathologist is providing services to a child with apraxia (a motor speech disorder resulting in very difficult to understand speech), it is ideal to have more than one treatment approach in her repertoire. Thus, if the child is not responding well to PROMPT, she can quickly change it up and try Phoneme Touch and Say, or the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol, or a cycles approach. The more treatment approaches the speech-language pathologist has in her “tool belt” the more likely that therapist will get results with her client. This will be true for all disorders that we treat: aphasia, voice, stuttering, literacy, articulation, language, autism, apraxia etc. Do not hesitate to ask the speech-language pathologist who you are considering hiring what type of treatment approaches he/she has which are relevant to your needs.
4. A Winning Personality
It will not matter how clinically strong or how much experience a speech-language pathologist has, if your child or loved one simply does not like working with him/her. Therefore, it is essential to find a therapist who has an engaging personality and is able to develop rapport with his/her clients. If you are looking for services for a preschool child, you will be looking for someone who can be silly, fun and get down on the ground and be playful with your child. If you are looking for services for a teenager, you will want a therapist who can treat that teenager with respect, and relate to your teen on their level and to their interests. Regardless of personality type, the speech-language pathologist who you hire should be kind, patient, and have a sense of humour. Some children need a soft spoken, gentle approach. Other rambunctious children will work best when a therapist is energetic and boisterous! When you hire a speech-language pathologist from a team of therapists, the proper match of personality and age of client can be achieved.
5. Consistency of Visits
It is very important that you hire a speech-language pathologist who can offer you consistent visits! Look for a therapist who will offer you a weekly session which is consistent on the same day, same time each week. This way, the speech therapy becomes part of your family’s routine. Therapists who offer biweekly visits, or sporadic sessions will not achieve the results that you are looking for. On the flip side of that, speech-language pathologists who can see you any day, anytime may be a red flag and you should be cautious. Like any profession, if you are good at what you do, the word will spread and you will be busy. The best speech-language pathologists are extremely busy as their caseloads are close to full. Therefore, they may not be able to offer you any day, anytime, but if they are consistent and are getting results – it’s worth it!