If you have ever raised or spent time with a child with developmental delays, then you understand just how essential securing specific medical services are for these medically-needy children. Among the most beneficial services for children who are not on target are developmental therapies: speech, occupational, and physical therapies, designed to help children catch up to their peers. These therapies are crucial, especially when one considers that children with developmental delays are three times more likely to be abandoned, abused, or neglected. This is primarily attributable to nonverbal children being unable to report abuse and the additional strain placed on the family to meet the child’s heightened needs.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for children to lack access to these services.

What exactly are these therapies and how do they help? 

For children who struggle with the sounds used to form words or have trouble expressing themselves clearly, speech and language therapy can help strengthen both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Not only does gaining the ability to communicate in a meaningful way allow dependent youth to report possible maltreatment, but it also leads to a more fulfilling life.

Physical therapy treats movement impairments caused by injury, illness, or disability. For children with developmental delays, therapy can improve their ability to crawl, walk, climb, or jump. Occupational therapy, although similar to physical therapy, is different because it teaches specific skills that help children live as independently as possible. Skills such as dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people make all the difference for dependent youth. It helps them gain a sense of independence and better relate to their peers.

If you are the parent or caregiver for a child you believe will benefit from a developmental therapy, there are specific steps you can take to secure these services for your child.

Begin by ensuring that the child’s Primary Care Physician (PCP) issues a prescription for the therapy. With this pending, locate a therapy provider that accepts Medicaid or the private insurance the child is currently covered under. With the therapy referral and prescription in hand, the evaluator will then contact the family and conduct an intake to gather the information needed to properly evaluate the child.

What should you look for once the evaluation is completed? 

Once completed, a medical report is generated and if the child is eligible for the therapy, a treatment plan is completed. The treatment plan, which must be signed by a doctor and approved by Medicaid or the insurance company, details not only how often the child will receive the therapy, but also what the child is expected to learn in the next six months.

What if the child is denied therapies? 

An attorney can assist you with filing an appeal with Medicaid or even a private insurance company if you choose to.

Once the therapy is approved, a treatment schedule should be set as soon as possible.  As the parent or caregiver, it is important for the therapies to take place regularly to maximize effectiveness.  In the event of an emergency, some sessions can be made up, but this is not advisable.

How long will the child receive therapies?

Treatment plans are approved for six months at a time. After that, the provider must re-evaluate the child and submit another treatment plan if the child will continue to receive therapy. As long as the child is making progress, therapy is likely to continue.

What if the child no longer needs therapies?

This means the child has met their therapy goals and is on track with other children their age. That is the best news of all! The sooner therapies begin, the sooner children may grow closer to being developmentally on track with their age group. Even if they are unable to catch up to their peers, any progress they make means greater independence in the future.

Does therapy really work?

Absolutely. The goal is for the child to catch up to his or her peers as soon as possible.