Private speech therapy can help with a wide range of conditions that affect the way we communicate. Speech problems come in many forms. Adults and children can have difficulty articulating words because of a lisp or a stammer or some other physical problem. There are also more complex issues involving the way the brain processes speech such as choosing appropriate words and understanding their meaning.

Most of us take being able to talk for granted but if you have a speech problem and find it difficult to make yourself understood, this can affect your whole life. Speech therapy may be able to help, particularly for children with speech problems, or for adults who have had a brain injury. Private speech therapy can have a bigger impact if started earlier rather than later.

This article on private speech therapy is by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

What can private speech therapy help with?

Private speech therapy helps improve speech that may be due to:

  • physical causes of speech problems, including voice problems due to head, neck or throat cancer, cleft palate and other disabilities.
  • mental and psychological causes, including learning difficulties, delayed development and autism.

Who can benefit from private therapy?

Private speech therapy is most commonly used with children who are not achieving the expected standards at school for their age group. These cases usually involve a multi-disciplinary approach including the school, social workers, health visitors and the therapist themselves.

However, speech problems can occur at any age, and private speech therapy works for adults too, often helping them to re-learn their speech patterns following a stroke or head injury, or abilities lost through degenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia.

Why choose private therapy?

Although there are many talented speech therapists working in the NHS, the main reason for choosing private speech therapy is to get treatment faster and at a time and place that is convenient for you.

There are 11,500 private speech therapists working in the UK, most of whom will be able to see you very quickly and get your treatment underway without delay. Many therapists work both privately and for the NHS. However, you cannot use the private speech therapy route to ‘jump the queue’, as regulations prevent therapists from undertaking private work in the same hospital where they do their NHS speech therapy.

You can use private speech therapy to supplement the treatment you are receiving from the NHS, but it is important that all parties are aware that you are doing this so that they can work together. Both private and NHS therapists will be happy to liaise with one another, along with teachers and other health professionals, to help produce the best outcome.

Where can I find the therapist?

As with most private treatment, if you feel that you, or your child, need private speech therapy, your first port of call is still your GP. He or she will let you know what is available on the NHS and the likely waiting time for an appointment and can also recommend local private speech therapists.

Although it is generally preferred, you do not need a GP referral for private speech therapy, as you can approach a therapist directly. However, it is always worth checking to see just what is available free of charge before committing yourself to private speech therapy.

To find a local private speech therapist, visit the website of the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Private Practice, or The Royal College of Speech Therapists.

What can I expect from private therapy?

Your first appointment will be a detailed assessment or your problem. The foundation of good private speech therapy is to understand the background to your condition, test your level of ability and assess your physical condition. This will take between an hour and an hour and a half, and will form the basis of your ongoing treatment. You may also be given some exercises and activities to practice at home, as well as a report to help others, such as teachers and health workers, to maximise your results.

Follow up sessions will last up to an hour and can be arranged to fit your routine, either at home, at school or as part of other therapies in a healthcare environment. The frequency of these appointments will vary depending on the condition being treated and the progress being made.

Your private speech therapist may also help with staff training, such as teachers or carers, and can provide formal assessments and formal targets for documents such as IEPs and statements of special educational needs.

How much does it cost?

The cost of private speech therapy varies depending on the complexity of the problem, the skill and experience of the therapist and the cost of the service being offered in terms of travelling and so on. However, as a rough guide, you should expect to pay between £55 and £90 for your initial assessment and around £60 per hour for ongoing sessions.

Most therapists will not charge for liaising with other interested parties, but will charge for the completion of formal reports and for training others to help.

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