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How to Choose a Great Speech Therapist: Four Questions You Should Ask

Updated on January 21, 2017
tdalexander profile image

Toni helps autistic teens and adults reach their employment and relationship goals. She is the author of the book Autism Translated.

Good speech therapists will make therapy fun for your child.
Good speech therapists will make therapy fun for your child. | Source

Children are happier, safer and have fewer meltdowns when they know how to express their needs and listen to others. Speech therapists play an important role in helping children with autism develop effective communication skills, so finding the right one for your child is important. In addition to verifying a speech therapist's experience and credentials during the interview process, asking the following four questions can help ensure that you choose the right therapist for your child.

When choosing a speech therapist, ask the therapist the following two questions:

Question 1: How do you plan to include me as the parent, in therapy sessions?

In order to gain new skills, children with autism typically need repeated and ongoing practice:

  1. throughout the day
  2. across multiple environments (school, home, grocery store, park, grandma's house)
  3. with many people (classmates, siblings, neighbors, teachers, grandparents)
  4. over extended periods of time

Therefore, a good therapist will teach you how to encourage and reinforce your child's language throughout the day, across many environments and with many people until your child masters those skills.

Question 2: What skills do you focus on in therapy sessions?

Some therapists only do flashcard drills where the child is expected to label items. Often, children with autism already have built-in labeling skills (they can identify or they can quickly learn to identify for example "the color blue", "a cat", "the house").

What they typically need are specific language skills so they can interact more effectively with others. Skills to improve interaction may include the ability to request, express feelings, and hold reciprocal (back and forth) conversations.

At the basic level this includes getting needs met by learning to ask for things (a drink, food, bathroom) and learning how to make choices (juice or water). For children who are developing more complex skills some speech therapists will have social groups where two or more children can practice taking turns, asking questions, changing the subject and staying on-task.

There are many reasons your child may have difficulty speaking. It is important to find a therapist who is trained in the techniques that address your child's specific issues. Speech therapists can specialize in everything from difficulty swallowing to central auditory processing disorders, or pronunciation.

When choosing a speech therapist, ask yourself the following questions:

Question 3: Does the therapist listen to my concerns and respond to them effectively?

A good therapist has the skills to help your child improve their communication skills but you are the expert on your child. Your child's speech therapist should listen to you and address any concerns you have.

Question 4: Does my child like the therapist?

Therapy is work, but it should also be fun and your child should view their therapist in a positive light. Children with autism are notorious for having unusual and specific preferences and dislikes. Even the best therapist will not be effective if your child does not feel comfortable with them. Before you hire a therapist, introduce them to your child to ensure there is a good fit.


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    • tdalexander profile image

      Toni Boucher 21 months ago

      letstalkabouteduc, thanks for the insight and the advice for families. It's hard to have team members onboard who don't support the therapy and you are right- there are still many professionals who dismiss OT. Many kids miss out on having the oportunity as a result.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 23 months ago from Bend, OR

      I have a son with autism who is now 16. His speech and occupational therapists were AMAZING -- true advocates for him and me. There are other people on early intervention teams who no little about speech and occupational therapies and even doubt their effectiveness (especially OT). These folks often coordinate your child's program so be wary of them. They're the bureaucrats in charge of keeping costs down. I know one early intervention team member who does OT even though she's not an occupational therapist! Thanks for the terrific information.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

      I can honestly tell you I've had tremendous success with speech therapists. My son had delayed speech when he was younger and he was diagnosed with phonological disorder. The first speech therapist we used was superb. My son liked her and established a wonderful relationship with her. His speech improved significantly over 6 months. Problem was cost. Insurance would not pay for it after telling me they would. It cost thousands out of pocket. I had to stop going there.

      We took my son to public school and enrolled him with his diagnosis of Autism, and everything else. They put him in special needs and provided speech therapy every week.

      When all the naysayers at the school tried to avoid providing my son with a full-day aide (apparently because they don't want to spend the money)....the speech therapist was the first person to come to my son's defense. This year he is transferring to a new school. They want to mainstream him and he will have a full-day aide.