It Takes a Village: Understanding Available Therapy Services

So, you think your child may need speech, occupational, or physical therapy.  Now what?  There are many ways your child can receive services, and it can be hard to understand and navigate all the options.  Relax!  We are going to run through the options for you.

There are three outlets that typically serve our children: private therapy, school therapy, and Babies Can’t Wait.  Each of these options have different service requirements and methods of administering therapy and intervention.

1.  Private Therapy:  In the private setting, your child will be evaluated and treated by a licensed therapist and is seen individually for treatment.  Therapy in the private setting requires a signed order from your child’s primary care physician to complete the evaluation if medical insurance is being billed.  At the time of the evaluation, the therapist will determine if therapy is warranted and recommend the frequency of treatment (typically 1-2 times per week).  Private therapy in most clinics is billed directly to your insurance.

Private therapy can provide services that may not be offered in other settings such as speaking valve trials for patients with tracheostomy, listening therapy, augmentative and alternative communication evaluations, feeding and swallowing therapy.  Private therapists work with all ages, from babies through elderly clients.  Referrals are typically scheduled quickly after the order from the referring physician is received.  In private practice, therapists communicate with parents and caregivers each week, and work closely with families to teach parents how to facilitate skills at home.

2.    School Therapy:  Children may qualify for therapy services through the public school system from age 3 through high school graduation (maximum 22 years old).  Typically, children are eligible to receive therapy services if their speech/motor/sensory difficulties have a negative educational impact.  Children who were enrolled in the Babies Can’t Wait program will transition into the school’s therapy services quickly and receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  An IEP will have defined, measurable goals in each area of need.  IEP meetings are held annually and can be requested at additional times to modify the plan.  The referral process for school age students requires that they transition through the Response to Intervention prior to development of an IEP.  The Response to Intervention (RTI) process was federally mandated and put into place to require teachers to implement assessments, interventions, and document results of interventions in the classroom to improve student achievement and so that fewer students are identified as having special needs requiring an IEP.  The referral process for therapy services in the school system can take several months to be completed.

Once the process of RTI is complete and an IEP is in place, therapy within the school setting is provided by a licensed therapist and can be conducted in the classroom or in the therapy room, typically in a group of 2-4 students for 30 minutes.  School therapists strive to pair children with similar goals in groups to address goals together which is especially helpful for working on social skills and pragmatic language, but this can also be challenging when therapists are required to pull students from their regular classrooms only at certain times of the day so that they are not missing special area classes and direct instruction.  School therapy goals are often developed with academic standards in mind.  Many children who receive school therapy also choose to receive additional private therapy, and school therapists often communicate and collaborate with private therapists about children they both serve.

3.  Babies Can’t Wait (BCW):  Babies Can’t Wait is Georgia’s state funded early intervention program which serves children from birth to age 3 if they meet one of the two requirements:

  • Have a diagnosed physical or mental condition which is known to result in a developmental delay
  • Have a diagnosed developmental delay confirmed by a qualified team of professionals

BCW utilizes a teaming approach to provide intervention.  In our district, a multidisciplinary evaluation is completed in the home by a therapist or special instructor to determine the scope of services.  Following the evaluation and development an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) which outlines the early intervention services that your child will receive, the team will meet and choose the best candidate to provide special instruction/intervention.

Services are often rendered by a special instructor/teacher and at times by a licensed therapist.  Services are provided in the natural environment, typically in the home or preschool/daycare setting.  In our district, BCW does not usually send multiple therapists into the home to provide services.  Typically, one provider/special instructor is the sole provider of intervention for each child.  Many children who receive Babies Can’t Wait services also receive private therapy.  Special instructors collaborate and work with private therapists.  BCW providers strive to involve families and teach them ways to play with their children to help them reach their goals.  Evaluation and coordination is provided at no cost, services are provided on a sliding fee scale.  To contact Babies Can’t Wait, call 1-800-651-8224 or locally (912) 284-2552.


Knowing about all the options available can help families make informed decisions about what is best for each child.  In many cases, children receive services from Babies Can’t Wait and private therapy, or school therapy and private therapy!  We want our families to take advantage of all the wonderful services available, remembering that early intervention is so important!


The Therapy S.P.O.T. – Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy ©Jason Hurst Photography 2014-2015 ©Jason Hurst Photography 2014-2015

Our multidisciplinary therapy center was established in 2007, and is committed to providing quality therapy services in a fun, family and child centered environment. We provide pediatric speech, feeding, physical, and occupational therapy as well as adult speech and swallowing therapy.  Our therapists have unique and specialized skills and training, and we strive to pair our patients with the therapists who will best meet their specific needs.  You can learn more about our services at  Questions or concerns?  Call us at (912) 681-7768 for a free consultation.