Frequently Asked Questions

Speech and Language Therapy Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions about speech and language therapy. If the answers listed here don’t cover all the information you need, feel free to give us a no-obligation call or email. In this article:

Why Choose Private Speech Therapy?

All Speech-Language Therapists – public or private – have the specialised training, skills and experience to assess and treat an individual’s communication difficulties. In New Zealand, speech-language therapy services can be accessed through several sources:

  • Through private practitioners such as Vocalsaints, who can help immediately, but usually charge a fee for their services.
  • Publicly, through the Ministry of Education (MoE). Public speech-language therapy is free, but has strictly limited acceptance criteria based on a child’s age and the severity of a their communication disorder. Public speech therapy entails a waiting list between six and nine months long.
  • Through hospitals, who may provide a Speech-Language Therapist free of charge and with little-to-no waiting list if communication disorders have arisen due to an accident or medical issue.

Private and public practitioners can often collaborate to provide support, with clients starting private therapy while on the waiting list for MoE services. Private Speech-Language Therapists then transfer their client’s treatment notes across to public Therapists when they become available.
 
Some families request that public and private Therapists work together, as there can be two areas of difficulty that can be treated at once. In this case, each Therapist would see the client separately, on a regular basis.
 

How Much Therapy will I (or My Child) Need?

The speech-language therapy process may require as little as one or two sessions, or need weekly sessions for over a year. A useful estimate for children’s treatment is around six to eight once-weekly sessions, as this has been a common duration historically. Bear in mind that there are several factors affecting the overall duration of treatment. In addition to cost, the overall treatment duration is also affected by the frequency of therapy, the severity of presenting communication difficulties and the intensity/consistency of home support. Support and practice time at home is important, because if more is done there, overall progress will be faster and treatment techniques will take less time to generalise into daily language.
 
Vocalsaints attempts to cater for a range of different needs by offering various types of services: These range from one-off discussion and guidance sessions, to home programmes, to one-on-one therapy. With all types of treatment, parents are kept well informed and the regularity of appointments is always in discussion with the parent/caregiver.
 
When supporting individuals with more severe communication disorders, allowing a slightly longer treatment duration will deliver several benefits. Firstly, it will allow time for consolidation of their therapy targets, and integration into everyday conversation. A second benefit comes in the advocacy an SLT provides for children in their schooling. Many schools may not have the special-education infrastructure or funding to fully understand a child’s communication needs and help them continue the academic process. In this case, an SLT can help by:

  • Contributing to Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings;
  • Liaising with Teachers’ Aides; and
  • Recommending a range of other in-class strategies to help a child receive the very most out of their schooling.

Can I Get Any Financial Help To Cover Treatment Costs?

In some circumstances, WINZ, ACC or your insurance company may subsidise or fully fund the costs of speech-language therapy. Each of the above organisations has different criteria which you or your child would need to meet in order to receive their financial support. For example, WINZ may cover the costs of speech-language therapy if a person has a communication disorder that is likely to last six months or more and which causes them to need support to undertake the normal activities of life. For more detailed information about funding/subsidy sources for private speech-language therapy, please take a look at our prices and funding page.
 

When Will My Child be Closed from Vocalsaints’ Service?

Once your child meets the agreed goals set out from the start, or once he or she reaches age-appropriate development and it is anticipated that he/she will continue to make gains themselves. We may also discontinue therapy if it is contraindicated; such as for a short time after having grommets inserted, or if you no longer want to continue (which can be discussed at any time).
 

Does Speech Therapy Always Work?

The short answer is “it always works, but for some kids more than others”. Speech-language therapy is an individualised service, which aims to help your child’s communication skills progress from where they are currently. It has made a significant difference for a number of families and all children can benefit from speech-language therapy to some degree. However, if there is an on-going physiological disorder present such as hearing loss or Dyspraxia, speech-language therapy services may only minimise communication difficulties – not eliminate them entirely. No matter what the underlying issues are, Vocalsaints will always provide professional and research-based practice, and investigate different therapy options based on best clinical judgement.
 

What is The Difference Between “Speech” and “Language”?

“Speech” involves the sounds to make up words, e.g. “d”, “g”, “s”. There is also an aspect of what we term “speech” that is related to fluency, in which someone may, for example, have difficulty talking smoothly and easily. You may wish to refer to our “stuttering” section for further information on fluency.
 
What a Speech-Language Therapist would describe as “Language” is divided into two areas: comprehension and expression. Comprehension is the act of understanding the verbal and non-verbal communication that another person provides to us; this involves attention, listening, and mental processing skills. Expression is the aspect of language that we generate – it is what we say. Expressive language involves words, syntax (word order) and our use of grammar.
 

What Causes Speech and/or Language Difficulties?

While this is a difficult question to answer in a general sense, the following are all categories that may need to be investigated:

  • Genetic / family history.
  • Medical causes, including hearing loss and chronic ear infections.
  • Premature birth.
  • Characteristics as part of a syndrome other on-going medical disorder.
  • Brain injury (before, during, or after birth).
  • General lack of the stimulus to learn language.
  • Unknown / no particular reason… Sometimes there may be no known cause for a child’s communication disorder.

What Should I Do if I am Concerned About My Child’s Speech or Language Development?

It helps to talk with your GP or Plunket Nurse and express your concerns, then contact a Speech-Language Therapist – typically it is an open-referral policy where parents can contact directly themselves. Parents/caregivers know their child the best, so if there are any concerns it is better to start intervening early. If you are “just worrying for nothing”, a discussion and possible initial assessment will at least reassure you that there is nothing else you need to do right now.
 

Can Ear Problems During Childhood Affect My Child’s Speech and Language Development?

Children learn speech sounds, words, concepts, and grammar by listening. This begins from birth and is fine-tuned as children get older. If a child has on-going or regular sore/blocked/waxy ears, this will impact on their ability to learn the skills. If you have any concerns about your child’s ears or hearing, please have them checked by your GP. If you want certainty that your child is hearing as they should for their age, see a qualified Audiologist for an assessment (they can do these for very young children too).
 

What Happens When I See a Speech-Language Therapist?

The first appointment is for finding out information about your child. This can be through discussion with you (the parent or caregiver), as well as formal and/or informal testing, which can involve observation of the child playing or interacting with you and maybe his/her peers. From here, areas in need of support are identified, goals are set up and specific therapy can start as required. For more information, take a look at our newly written article describing what you can expect from speech-language therapy.
 

How Long Do Appointments Take?

An initial assessment can range from 45 minutes through to a little over an hour, with subsequent sessions tending to be around 45-55 minutes. It often depends on the child’s needs and attention span. There will be discussion between the parent/caregiver and the Speech-Language Therapist about the child’s background and main concerns, which will influence the length of appointments as well. To help make the most of their time in therapy, caregivers may be asked to fill in questionnaires at home.
 

How Can I Pay For Appointments?

We have EFTPOS and credit card facilities available on site, and payment by cash is fine as well. We also accept bank transfers or automatic payments, as long as the online payment occurs before the date of your appointment. It is also possible to receive funding or subsidies for private speech-language therapy from WINZ, ACC or insurance companies, as long as you meet certain criteria. For more information about these funding sources, please take a look at our prices and funding page.
 

Do I as a Parent/Caregiver Need to be Involved in Therapy?

Definitely. Your involvement is vital for your child’s generalisation and consolidation of skills. As a parent/caregiver, you are with your child more often and can reinforce your child’s learning. Vocalsaints will provide you with areas of communication to be developed as homework, and the resources for their implementation.