My Child Needs Therapy: Where Do I Start, and How Is It Paid For?

If you have a child with any kind of medical diagnosis or learning challenge, you’ve likely been introduced to the complexity of services. Knowing what’s considered a school-based service and what is a private service is confusing in itself. There are similarities and differences between the two. Here’s a brief rundown of each.

Schools serve the purpose of educating children. Sometimes, in order to benefit from education, it will be determined that the child needs additional services, such as special education, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or some form of behavior intervention. These additional services are meant to help the child meet the educational goals in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or to allow the child to better participate in the classroom. The school goals often benefit the child outside of the classroom, but the school environment is of primary concern. When the services are determined necessary, they are provided and funded by the school.

Private, or medical-based therapy, addresses goals not identified by the school as necessary for learning. Under this model, a physician makes a referral based on a diagnosis, concern, or observed delay. This might be speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology/counseling, or applied behavior analysis. After the referral, the need for treatment services is determined by an evaluation based on testing and observations that takes the home, school, and community settings into account. If treatment services are deemed necessary, insurance often covers all or part of the costs.

It’s common to receive both school and private services. For example, a young child recently diagnosed with autism may attend preschool and receive special education services that target early learning skills. He or she may also get speech therapy to improve communication skills, and have a behavior intervention plan to decrease behavior that interferes with learning—such as dropping to the floor during transitions. The same child may also benefit from private services such as speech therapy to increase communication skills at home, or applied behavior analysis to address such things as toilet training, safety skills, or hitting/biting a sibling.

A comprehensive plan with both school and private therapies can help your child reach their highest potential. If you have a concern about your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician or school, or call an Intake Specialist at LifeScape at (605) 444-9700. We’re here to help.