Speech and language therapy for special-needs children can cost parents hundreds of dollars a week, but most private practices offering these services are not covered under health insurance.
“The reimbursement rate is so poor, it’s almost impossible for anyone to keep their doors open and take insurance,” said speech-language pathologist Kim Bell, owner of SPEECH PATHways in Westminster.
According to Bell, who is the president-elect of the Maryland Speech-Language-Hearing Association, communication disorders affect about 5 percent to 10 percent of people in the U.S., and many require years of therapy. Insurance companies that do reimburse patients for services typically provide only a fraction of the cost, she said.
After years of working with parents struggling to pay for services, Bell decided to create the SPEECH PATHways Foundation. It became a fund of the Community Foundation of Carroll County in December.
Parents will soon be able to apply for grants and scholarships through the foundation to pay for speech and language therapy at private practices in Carroll County and surrounding areas. Bell is looking for corporate sponsors and plans to hold a family fundraiser in late summer with adapted games for special-needs children and vendor booths with information on services.
She hopes to raise enough money to start providing full or partial scholarships by the end of this year; $4,000 to $5,000 would pay for a child to receive speech and language therapy once a week for an entire year, she said.
However, some children with developmental disabilities require more frequent therapy sessions, according to Christine Rabor, a health-care analytics and contracting specialist who serves on the foundation’s advisory board.
Rabor’s daughter, Taylor, was diagnosed at 18 months with global apraxia, a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to carry out movements and gestures, including those needed to communicate.
In January, 8-year-old Taylor began attending Chesapeake Speech School in Elkridge paid for by the Carroll County Public Schools. Previously, her parents had to pay $300 to $500 a week for private therapy outside of Hampstead Elementary School because therapy provided by the schools must be relevant to the child’s education, Rabor said.
“If the teacher says they can understand a child, then that child may not qualify for speech therapy,” she said.
Bell said the foundation also will act as an advocate for children with communication disorders, lobbying governmental agencies to increase access to therapy services for children.
“Communication is really the turning point for anyone. It’s a vital part of human nature,” Bell said.
Reach staff writer Karen Karaszkiewicz at 410-857-7890 or email@example.com.
For more information on the SPEECH PATHways Foundation, visit www.speechpathwaysfoundation.org.