Homeschooling, COVID-19, and Speech-language Therapy

COVID-19 UPDATE: Wow that felt odd typing that!! So when I originally wrote this post, we were living in a much different world. We, at least me, had never heard of coronavirus, nor did I imagine that we would experience a pandemic. I naively thought such things would stay in the history books. Anyway. To the point. Right now, we’re all trying to figure out what the upcoming school year holds for our children. If you are blessed enough to have options, you have 1 of 4 choices:

  1. Send to traditional school full-time
  2. Send to school on a hybrid schedule: 2/3 days in school and 2/3 days doing virtual learning (depending on individual school districts)
  3. Do full-time online learning
  4. Homeschool

Before I say anything else, here’s what I want you to know. As always, I’m only ever here to lay out the facts while not putting any more stress on you. And, WE are proactive people. We don’t sit around hoping they’ll “grow out of it,” we take and play an active role in their communication development and progress. Now to the point:

No Matter What Schooling Route You Choose for Your Child, Things Will Be Different

and please remember that

Different Does Not = Inferior. Different = Different

Yeah, so, I’m not going to be hypocritical and act like this is no big deal and it doesn’t bother me. It does. But for now, it is what it is.

SO WHAT DOES CHOICE #1 and #2 HAVE TO DO WITH MY CHILD’S SPEECH-LANGUAGE THERAPY?

Traditional school, full-time and hybrid schedule: your child’s speech-language therapy sessions are very likely to be different. HOW? Sessions may be delivered in a different location. Sessions may be delivered through plexi-glass. Sessions may be delivered where the child uses different therapy materials or does different activities because they will not be sharing as many, if any, materials with therapy peers. For example, they may no longer play their favorite articulation card game with peers because we don’t want them to cross-contaminate each other’s materials. Sessions may be delivered in different time-increments.

WHAT DO YOU, MOMMA/DADDY, NEED TO DO ABOUT THIS?

First, be prepared for your child to come home, possibly upset, and talk about how speech therapy is different. They may not be too shocked though, because the whole school day is different anyway with masks, more breaks for hand washing, etc. If you would like to discuss the possible changes with your child, contact your child’s SLP at school and ask them to brief you so you can let your child know what to expect.

Second, don’t forget to emphasize the importance of continuing speech-language homework/exercises at home. Two reasons. First, without practicing skills at home, it is going to take a long time to acquire new skills. COVID-19 or no COVID-19, that’s just the facts. For example, if your child was learning how to walk, you wouldn’t schedule a 30-minute practice session only twice a week and expect them to learn how to walk anytime soon. Second, it is hopefully what they were doing before all this COVID-19 struck and it is something familiar, which is comforting.

SO WHAT DOES CHOICE #3 and #4 HAVE TO DO WITH MY CHILD’S SPEECH-LANGUAGE THERAPY?

Full-time online learning and homeschool: If your child is doing online learning through their school district, the SLP or another school staff member will contact you with an online learning schedule, on which speech-language therapy sessions will be scheduled. These speech therapy sessions will most likely take place on something similar to Zoom meetings or digital/hard copy therapy exercises will be sent to you.

If your child is doing online learning on a platform that is NOT through your child’s public school, which means you pay the tuition yourself, or you are homeschooling, you will need to seek either outpatient speech-language therapy or contact the school district in which your child lives and ask them about bringing your child to school in order to receive services.

WHAT DO YOU, MOMMA/DADDY, NEED TO DO ABOUT THIS?

First question is: Are you comfortable taking your child to outpatient therapy or to the local school district for speech-language therapy? If NOT, read below. There’s a side-story in italics you can skip if you’re in a hurry. If you’re in a hurry, skip down to the section under “Not Comfortable.” If you ARE comfortable with taking your child outside of the home for speech-language therapy, it’s a matter of calling the local school district or contacting an outpatient therapy office in your area and setting up an appointment.

Side story. We were getting a grocery pickup the other day (where the store workers bring it out to your car), and my daughter had to use the bathroom. We drove next door to the mostly empty Tractor Supply, masked up, went inside and used the bathroom. She did NOT want to leave. We walked around the store for a few minutes, just browsing, because other than the dentist and optometrist’s office, she had not been in a public place since the middle of March. The thrill she got from looking at dog food and empty chick cages was sweet, but sad at the same time.

NOT COMFORTABLE?

First, call your child’s local school district and ask if they are providing online speech-language therapy services.

Second, if the above is not an option or a route you want to go, Google “online speech therapy services.”

Third, if the first and second options are not for your child, contact the SLP your child had previously and ask them specifically what you need to work on with your child and what techniques and resources they suggest. I’m going to give just a tiny warning about this option. Not all SLPs are comfortable providing recommendations; this could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps too much time has passed and the SLP can not offer recommendations because the data they have for your child is not current. Perhaps your child is on a very strict therapy program that requires very close monitoring from a trained SLP and they do not want to hinder the progress your child has made thus far or could potentially make.

THIS IS FOR EVERYONE. IN SCHOOL, ONLINE SCHOOL, HOMESCHOOL ….

First, absolutely do NOT doubt your own abilities to help your child. You’ve got them this far. If your child is already enrolled in speech-language therapy somewhere, ask for at-home activities. It WILL help them reach their goals faster. If they are not already enrolled in speech-language therapy somewhere, get them started. Go with your gut instincts. Don’t wait for them to “grow out of it” (see Waiting to See if They “Grow Out Of It” ) and don’t wait until this whole COVID-19 passes. If you’re not comfortable having your child in public situations, seek online alternatives. While you wait for that first evaluation or therapy session, continue to be proactive and help your child’s communication develop as much as you can. Please see the bottom of this page for links to how you can specifically help improve your child’s communication.

Second, remember to be patient with your child and yourself. COVID or no COVID, learning new skills takes time and can be hard. Something that comes so easy to one person, does not come as easy to another.

I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at reachthroughspeech@outlook.com and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.

Disclaimer Statement

This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind!

*****ORIGINAL POST BELOW*****

Good afternoon, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here.

First of all, I apologize if I should be saying “homeschooling” instead of “homeschooled” as you read this post! I researched the appropriate terminology, but to no avail! Feel free to correct me in the comments!

If your child attends the public school system, there are many free resources available to your child. Some of those free resources include receiving speech-language therapy services during school hours. If your child attends private school, generally, the speech-language pathologist that serves the public school systems in that county, will serve the private school children as well.

What if my child is homeschooled?

In Kentucky, if your child is homeschooled, but does qualify for speech-language therapy services, they can receive those services at the public school within their district. Click HERE to see what your state’s laws are regarding special education services for homeschooled children (Remember that speech-language therapy is considered a special education service because it is done in addition to the regular education curriculum). These services are provided at no additional cost to you, other than the time and gas it takes to transport your child to the school and then back home.

IF YOUR CHILD WAS ALREADY RECEIVING SPEECH THERAPY AT SCHOOL, BUT IS NOW BEING TEMPORARILY HOMESCHOOLED DUE TO SICKNESS, WEATHER, OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES? PLEASE SEE THE FOLLOWING POST FOR SPECIFIC WAYS YOU CAN WORK ON THEIR SPEECH SOUNDS: How Parents Can Improve Their Child’s Speech

I do want my child evaluated for a speech or language delay. Where do I start?

Contact the Board of Education for the public school district you live in. Ask to speak to the special education director and ask if and when your child can be evaluated.

What should I expect?

If your child is identified as presenting with speech and/or language differences through the public school system, they will generally go through a period of RTI (Response to Intervention). RTI is NOT therapy. The therapist will give you specific interventions to do at home to see if their speech and/or language improve. The therapist will also collect data every so many weeks to determine if the RTI is making a positive difference with your child’s speech and/or language. I know at times RTI does seem like it’s delaying actual therapy, but it’s the law! There may be some very special cases where it can be skipped, but I am not aware of them.

it is what it is gia gunn GIF by RuPaul's Drag Race

What if my child is making no progress through the RTI period?

If it does make a noticeable difference, the therapist will continue giving you interventions. If it does not make a noticeable difference, even after the intensity of interventions are increased, the therapist will ask you to attend a ARC meeting (Admissions and Release Committee) which is where you, the therapist, and a chairperson for the meeting will convene to discuss necessary evaluations. Those involved in this meeting are referred to as the “ARC team.”

What happens during this first meeting?

After the members of the ARC team are introduced to one another, the purpose of the meeting will be stated: determining whether or not your child needs an evaluation.

Your concerns as a parent will be collected and discussed, as well as obtaining your child’s developmental history (a form similar to those you fill out at doctor’s visits). Your child’s RTI data will also be discussed. If the ARC team determines that your child does need an evaluation based on the information gathered, they will ask for you to sign a “Consent to Evaluate” form.

As a parent, it is your right to accept or deny your child participating in an evaluation.

Speech and language evaluations are not scary for your child! Yes, your child may be nervous, but it is not like an invasive evaluation one may experience in a doctor’s office or hospital. 

To sum it up, speech and language evaluations consist of the therapist showing your child pictures, asking them questions, having them perform tasks specific to the suspected delay or disability, looking inside their mouth (oral mechanism examination), and doing observations of your child.

Another few words about observations…

Since your child is homeschooled, your child’s potential speech-language pathologist will want to do observations of your child during their daily life, whether this be observing your child at home, in a play group, during homeschool sessions, etc. They may also ask for audio recordings or videos of your child while in their familiar settings.

After the speech-language pathologist has gathered all the information they need and has time to analyze and draw conclusions based on that information, a second meeting will be scheduled.

The second meeting..

The second meeting will begin similar to the first meeting you had, but this time the ARC team’s purpose is to determine if your child does need speech-language therapy services, which are considered to be “special education services.”

Sometimes, a child does present with a speech or language delay, but the evaluation determined that their delay did NOT negatively impact your child’s academic, social, or daily living skills. In this case, your child will NOT qualify for speech-language therapy services in that public school system. If it is determined that your child’s delay DOES adversely impact areas of their life, you can sign the “Consent for Special Education Services” form so your child can receive speech-language therapy services during the school day on school property.

What if my child does not qualify for the speech-language therapy services provided by the public school system?

That does happen sometimes, regardless of whether the student is in the public school system, an institutionalized private school, or homeschool. There are a number of reasons why they may not qualify, but I’ll get into that in a later post. Like anything else, get a second opinion. Request your child’s pediatrician to write a referral for a speech-language evaluation and schedule an appointment with an outpatient speech-language pathologist. No matter what the verdict is from either party, be specific in your concerns and ask for at home activities.

What if they do qualify?

Generally, students who receive speech-language therapy services during school hours receive them in a small group setting. Some therapists group their students together based on age, while others group their students together based on the goals they are working on. If they receive speech-language therapy services in an outpatient setting, oftentimes therapy is 1:1, but some therapy centers have programs where the speech-language therapy kids are grouped together.

What if they do not qualify anywhere?!

Have faith in yourself. You are obviously already a strong, confident person because not only are you rearing your child, but you also made the decision however long ago to be the parent AND the teacher. To sum it up: You ain’t no softie. And I mean that in all the good ways.

old west fight GIF by GritTV

As stated before: No matter what the verdict is from either party, be specific in your concerns and ask for at home activities.

Whatever you are teaching your child right now, it is a process. First, you set the foundational building blocks in place (i.e. recognizing letters and learning their sounds), and you continue to build from there. Teaching speech and language skills are the same concept.

What I’m about to say next is not to scare you, but to remind you.

AGAIN, ask for guidance/consultation from a speech-language pathologist because you do NOT want to teach your child the WRONG technique in regards to producing a sound(s) correctly or asking them to do something that is too complex from the get-go. A child can not successfully run until they learn to alternate their feet while walking.

To see some posts that may be specifically related to your child’s speech and language, check out the list below.

How Parents Can Improve Their Child’s Speech

How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home
Part 2 of the Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home
How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span
How to Help Your Child Talk More
How To Help Your Child With Sensory Issues Cope With Holidays and Social Gatherings
How to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Answer and Ask Questions
Teaching Your Child to Communicate When They Are Sick or Hurt if They Are Communication Impaired
How to Improve Your Child’s Social Skills
The “Little Things” That May Be Hurting Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

Not sure if your child should receive speech-language therapy?

What to Do if Your Child Is STILL Attending Speech-Language Therapy?
Why Is My Child’s School Saying My Child Needs Speech Therapy? They Talk Just Fine.Waiting to See if They “Grow Out Of It”

I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at reachthroughspeech@outlook.com and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.

Disclaimer Statement

This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind!

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