When Speech Therapy Is A Waste Of Money

Last month I was contacted by a family looking for speech therapy services for their nine year old daughter. She already had a fair bit of speech therapy under her belt, but was still struggling to pronounce a handful of speech sounds correctly.

After a few back and forth emails, We scheduled a video call for further discussion.

I met with the mother – daughter ensemble. During our greetings, I sensed some shyness in the daughter, so I began speaking directly with mom. I answered some questions, gathered information and offered a mini demonstration of what it would look like to work together online.

When she seemed more at ease, I asked the young girl some questions and listened to her speak. I explained how because of muscle memory, that by the age of nine, she would not likely improve her speech sounds without the support of a Speech Therapist.

My next two questions revealed what I most needed to know: “How do you feel about your speech?”, and “Is working on your speech something you want to do?”  These may seem like obvious questions, but you would be surprised how infrequently children are asked.

It turned out, this nine year-old girl felt her speech was just fine. She reported that she was never teased about her speech and she was not interested in working on her speech. She was very clear. And the expression on mom’s face was priceless!

Even if I think an individual would benefit from speech therapy, if they don’t want to do it, they will not benefit. And so, in this case, any investment made by the family towards speech therapy would have been wasted.

Engagement is essential for meeting goals. This is exactly why I prioritize providing fun therapy.

Following our meeting I received an email from the mother thanking me for asking her daughter if she wanted to work on her speech. Our meeting sparked a family discussion. Mom learned that it really upset her daughter when she corrected her sounds because the daughter did not feel there was anything wrong with her speech.

As with any other inquiry that does not transform immediately into a Therapist – Client relationship, I invited this family to reach out if something changes in the future and their daughter decides she would like support with her speech skills.

I don’t directly ask every child how motivated they are to work on their speech. As with most decisions, it is influenced by many factors. However, I have observed that things change when children are about nine years old. They don’t necessarily just go along with the plans we make for them. They begin to speak up, and their voices must be heard and honored.

“This is one of the truths of the universe, and you heard it first from here: Whatever we decide we want to do is what we do.” – Morgan Freeman

Teletherapy as a service delivery model


In March 2020, after over twenty five years of face-to-face speech and language therapy, I took the leap into virtual online therapy. Unlike past career choices teeming with limitless possibilities, it was clear there was only one option. To continue supporting my clients, I would have to make the switch to Teletherapy. Challenge accepted!

Transitions are a good time to take stock.

  • I had experience offering online accent reduction training.
  • I was familiar with the Zoom platform.
  • I owned a high quality microphone and noise-cancelling headphones.
  • I was a member of a profession dominated by creative, resourceful and collaborative colleagues.

We were (and still are) in a global pandemic. The air was heavy with anxiety and uncertainty. I informed each client of my plan to pivot my service delivery model to Teletherapy keeping them updated and supported every step of the way. I was committed to providing them with high quality intervention. I used the next two weeks to research, train, and prepare for a transition to the lesser known world of Teletherapy.

Many other SLPs had already taken the dive into Teletherapy years back. The research was promising. Studies confirmed that word learning and generalization to different contexts was equivalent across face-to-face and virtual interactions with toddlers. And young children with autism improved their vocabulary and sentence length equally whether their parents received coaching face-to-face or via Teletherapy.

I quickly learned…

That I could do almost everything I did in face-to-face sessions using an online platform.

  1. Provide direct therapy incorporating a client’s interests.
  2. Individualize therapy approaches to suit each family’s needs.
  3. Create interactive activities allowing clients to control or mark up the screen.
  4. Teach clients how to pronounce new speech sounds.
  5. Parent/caregiver consultation and coaching.
  6. Track progress.
  7. Develop and review customized home programs.

That there were many advantages of Teletherapy.

  1. Clients receive services in familiar and comfortable spaces.
  2. Simplified schedules result in improved attendance and more consistent therapy.
  3. Therapy is provided using a medium children and adults are comfortable with.
  4. We can access any number of activities with a computer.
  5. Increased accessibility to services for families living further from city centres.
  6. Increased parental involvement and thus increased carry-over of new skills.
  7. Therapists can do almost everything they did previously while helping to protect clients’ health and safety.

“It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take things to.”  
Jean-Luc Godard

The transition to a new service delivery model was an opportunity to learn new skills, but has turned out to be so much more. Pivoting allows for a fresh start . It opens new doors and possibilities. The potential for growth is unlimited. I experienced more patience, curiosity, understanding, excitement, creativity and flexibility over the last six months than I ever expected. And, becoming professionally accessible to a more extensive region is exciting. 

Click HERE to learn more about my Teletherapy services.