These days more and more health services are no longer being funded by the government. Long gone are the days where we can access speech therapy, physiotherapy, massage, and other health services using our trusted OHIP card.
Although there are some government funded speech therapy programs for specific populations (e.g. pre-school children), the waitlists for these programs are often long and exhaustive.
Speech therapy services within the school boards are also sometimes available, but again, the services are limited mostly to assessment with very little opportunity for intensive specialized treatment. With these factors considered and with the cost of private specialized therapies being what they are, parents are often left wondering, “How am I going to pay for the speech therapy my child needs?”
Take a closer look at your extended health benefits
Although most people know that services like physiotherapy and massage therapy are covered by the extended health benefits provided by their insurer, they often don’t realize that these benefits often include coverage for speech therapy as well.
Typically this coverage is listed under the Medical Rehabilitation section of your policy. It may include a lump sum per calendar year (e.g. coverage up to $500 per calendar year) or a maximum amount covered per therapy session (e.g. coverage up to $50 per session). If it’s unclear what is covered in your policy, a quick call to your insurer can answer many of your questions.
Think outside the box
Many insurance policies offer a maximum amount covered per year per claimant. This means that you and your child could BOTH be entitled to that amount of coverage.
Speech therapy sessions for your child sometimes include a component of parent training. This is where the speech therapist teaches you how to target the skill area so that you can practice with your child at home in order to help carryover the skills learned in the therapy session. Parent training may also include individual sessions where you are taught the best way(s) to interact with your child.
What this means is that, if your case fits the criteria, part of the session could be billed/claimed for your child and part of the session could be billed/claimed for you – effectively doubling your extended health benefit coverage.
Stick it to “the man”
Just because the government doesn’t always fund these health services through OHIP doesn’t mean that you can’t get some assistance from the government.
If your child is receiving speech therapy for a chronic medical condition (e.g. brain injury, Autism, etc.), you may be eligible for the Child Disability Benefit. Visit the CRA website for more information on eligibility and how to apply.
Take Advantage of Assistants
Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDAs) can work under the direction of a speech therapist to provide treatment to your child and are a lower cost alternative to treatment with a speech therapist.
However, CDA services are not appropriate for all clients and candidacy for these services is determined by a speech-language pathologist. A speech therapist would still need to complete sessions with your child at regular intervals to monitor progress and make recommendations.
Consider Creative Alternatives
Although nothing can replace the benefits your child would receive from one-to-one treatment with a speech therapist, there are other alternatives to receive some level of help.
Group therapy, where children working on similar difficulties could receive therapy together, is one option to consider as the cost of a session could be shared with the other individual(s). Group-based camps/series can also be a more affordable alternative such as the “Social Language Camps” offered by our clinic.
Again, the caveat here is that there is less “treatment” going on in these larger group scenarios, so the gains made by you or your loved one will not be as great as if receiving individual therapy. That being noted, there is much to be said about the benefit of practicing communication skills with same aged peers!
Whatever your situation, there is often a creative solution to help you provide for your child’s needs!
Melissa Kiley is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with a special interest in concussion/acquired brain injury as well as literacy skills development. She has been working with clients for over 10 years and is highly skilled in developing functional and innovative treatments. Melissa enjoys educating clients, families/caregivers, and other team members and has been able to take this to new levels through her role as Community Manager at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks.