If you’ve pursued private speech therapy for yourself or a loved one recently, it will come as no shock when I say that wait lists for services are, sadly, the norm. Likewise, if you’re an SLP, you know that clients can wait for weeks, months, or even years to walk into your therapy room. And what torture for all involved! Clients and their caregivers, having been told they will benefit from therapy, are left in a helpless purgatory, while clinicians feel incredible discomfort knowing that there are those that need their help and cannot access it. It’s lose-lose and everyone feels awful. And lest you think that this is just an American problem, be assured that speech therapy wait-times are an issue the world over, as evidenced by articles from Canada, Australia, and the UK. In fact, it’s such a big issue that the @WeSpeechies tackled it for one of their twitter chats earlier this year.
So, what’s to be done? Well, up until recently, it was an issue that was often discussed and bemoaned, but there didn’t seem to be any answers that were viable to implement large-scale change. The solutions being undertaken in places like Canada are encouraging, although not necessarily a good fit here in the States due to their universal health care system and the unique set of challenges it presents. It remains to be seen what the changes in our own health care system (aka “Obamacare”) may bring to the length and duration of speech therapy wait lists. The rise of the telehealth movement, however, offers a glimmer of hope that we may someday be able to offer speech-language services to anyone in need, when they need it. Large health care providers are beginning to explore speech-language pathology telepractice as a means to reduce and manage their wait lists, while companies like ours now offer telepractice services directly to the clients themselves.
There is likely no silver-bullet that will magically fix the issues that surround waiting to get in the door for speech therapy. But with video chatting becoming more and more commonplace around the world, and with the constant evolution of the software that makes that chatting possible, it’s exciting to think what the future holds. For the first time in a very long time, there seems to be a steadily-growing light at the end of the wait list tunnel.