Why is it important to get a Speech and Language referral before my child starts school?
The funding for speech and language therapy changes when your child reaches school age, therefore seeking early intervention is key.
Parents with children under the age of 5 are encouraged to go to local drop in clinics if they are concerned about their child’s communication skills. Appointments are sometimes made through the GP or the hospital, if the parent has gone to them with a specific concern. Often though, parents will be signposted to these sessions.
Parents should be aware that children acquire language and reach milestones at different times. Each child is an individual and should be treated as such. However, if you have a concern that your child is behind for their age, get advice from your local drop-in clinic.
Parents sometimes complain that it is difficult to get to a drop-in clinic as they are usually during the working day, and they only have a certain amount of spaces available per session. However, it is important to be prudent and try your best to get an appointment as soon as possible. The younger a child is seen by a speech and language therapist, the quicker they can access the intervention that is required to help their specific difficulties. Intervention during the language acquisition years is vitally important.
The drop-in clinics for preschoolers are funded by the NHS as your child is of preschool age.
At school age, although it is possible to refer a child to the service directly through their triage system, the process becomes a bit more lengthy and complicated. Often the child will be referred through school when it has been noted that there could be a potential area of difficulty. Parental permission for referral is always required in the first instance.
The funding for speech and language intervention will now come from the school as your child is attending a mainstream institution. Schools will be required to offer appropriate intervention unless the child has a high communication need, and requires direct speech and language input from an NHS therapist. Often, the therapist will often schedule termly sessions during the school day. The duty of care and requirement for specific intervention would now lay with the school, with online and telephone advice offered from the speech and language therapy service if required.
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