How Can I Help Pay for Speech Therapy?

It can be a scary and confusing time when you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic illness such as stroke, brain injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease.

The lack of publicly funded rehabilitation for the difficulties that come along with these illnesses can leave families feeling desperate and wondering who will help foot the bill for the therapies they or their loved ones need to recover.

In a cruel twist of fate, these illnesses often occur at a time in life when people are now needing to live on reduced income (e.g. retired and on pensions).

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 that can help pay 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 $100 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 spouse could BOTH be entitled to that amount of coverage.

Speech therapy sessions for you or your spouse can often include a component of caregiver/spouse training. This is where the speech therapist teaches you how to target the skill area so that you can practice with your partner at home in order to help carryover the skills learned in the therapy session.

What this means is that, if your case fits the criteria, part of the session can be billed/claimed for your spouse/caregiver and part of the session can be billed/claimed for you – extending the amount of coverage you can access to help pay for speech therapy

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 to help pay for speech therapy

If you are receiving speech therapy for a chronic medical condition (e.g. brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, etc.), you may be eligible for a Disability Tax Credit.

Visit the CRA website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/316/pply-eng.html 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 you or your loved one 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 you or your loved one at regular intervals to monitor progress and make recommendations.

Consider Creative Alternatives to Help Pay for Speech Therapy

Although nothing can replace the benefits you or your loved one would receive from one-to-one treatment with a speech therapist, there are other alternatives to receive some level of help.

Group therapy, such as our brain injury groups, where people working on similar difficulties can receive therapy together, is one option to consider as the cost of a session could be shared with the other individual(s). Support-Focused groups can also be a more affordable alternative, such as the supported communication group offered by our clinic for adults with brain based communication impairments (e.g. stroke, dysarthria, brain injury, etc.).

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 others in more natural contexts!

Although it may be frustrating to consider the lack of OHIP funded therapy, no matter what your situation, there is often a creative solution to help you provide for you or your loved one’s needs!

MelissaKiley-220Melissa 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.

A student’s experience of our Aphasia Group

As an intern at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks, I participated in the weekly aphasia group. Each week, I saw members given countless opportunities to participate in meaningful conversation. Within the two-hour group, members discuss current events, their families, past travels, work experience, and any other personal interests.  Communication is not limited to spoken words in this group. Instead, the use of all forms of communication are used to help members express their thoughts. I admire the work being done in this group and I hope the following blog will provide you with a glimpse into this weekly aphasia group.

The Aphasia Group Experience

As the members of S.L. Hunter’s SpeechWorks’ aphasia group gather around the table for weekly group therapy, I see Sandy, the group’s Communication Disorders Assistant (CDA) turn to a new member and say, “Congratulations on your new grandchild! Was it a girl or a boy?” The new member smiles and announces, “girl!” Each individual in the group begins to congratulate the new member. Some members offer a congratulations through spoken words and others through the exchange of a smile.  As the conversation continues with questions such as, “how many grandchildren do you have now?” I am filled with admiration for the personal and meaningful conversation that occurs in the group. I think to myself, “It is conversation that matters. This is what any person with or without aphasia would want to discuss.”

Discussion using all modes of communication

Next, a discussion regarding the week’s current events begins. Sandy begins a discussion on the CN Tower Edge Walk. She picks up a black sharpie and begins to write key words that will be used in the discussion. “The CN tower,” she says while pointing to the word “CN tower” on the sheet in front of her, “is allowing visitors to walk around the building’s very top edge.” Sandy pauses again and draws a simple sketch of the building. Next, she draws an arrow pointing to the top of her drawing to indicate the EdgeWalk occurs at the very top. Some of the members begin to chuckle. As I watch Sandy continue to unravel the discussion, I am struck by both Sandy and the group’s volunteers’ use of every mode of communication to aid each member’s understanding of the topic.

Once the summary is complete, Sandy and the volunteers begin to lead the group through discussion questions. “Would you want to participate in the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk?” the volunteer asks. She then writes the key words of the question to help each member better understand. Each member of the aphasia group is given a turn to answer. One member verbally answers “no”, another shakes her head no, and another points to the word “yes” on the answer sheet created by the volunteer. I notice how Sandy and the group’s volunteers create opportunities for each of the members to express their opinions in their preferred mode of communication.

Providing everyone with an opportunity to contribute

The final half hour of the aphasia group is spent playing a game. I notice how the game “Headbanz” is adapted to provide each member with an opportunity to play. Verbal, written, and visual support is provided to help each member take a turn in the game. For example, a volunteer writes the words “person, place, and thing” on a piece of paper. Members are provided with the opportunity to form a verbal answer or to point to one of the three words written down. Again, I notice how members are provided with the individual support they need to actively participate.

I am very privileged to have been given the opportunity to participate in this aphasia group. The members seemed to enjoy themselves and keep coming back week after week.

Grad PictureRebecca is a recent graduate from the Speech-Language Pathology Program at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through her internships, she has gained experience working with toddlers, school aged children, and adults with a variety of communication disorders. While Rebecca enjoys working with kids and adults, she has a special interest in working with kids who have language disorders.