Kids, speech therapists try to make up for lost time after months of missed in-person sessions

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As things are slowly getting back to normal, some parents, kids and speech therapists are trying to make up for lost time.

For kids who need speech therapy, most missed months of in-person sessions. Also, people started wearing masks so that can impact their learning.

Experts said the overall impact remains to be seen, but families are just starting to get back on track.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Benjamin had just started speech therapy through the state's early intervention program at the end of 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and everything stopped. His mother said they were offered virtual sessions.

"I just knew my son would not sit still in front of a computer," said his mom, Amanda.

Nicole Lombardi, founder of Speech Matters, a private speech therapy company, agrees virtual is tough, especially for younger children.

At the start, they focused on coaching parents which was helpful but not as effective. She said we do not know the impact yet, but will not be surprised if kids fell behind.

"I mean a child is receiving consistent practice with whatever their goal area is and then to just pull back and for a solid few months," said Lombardi. "They weren't getting the services. There's definite regression there, students need that consistent practice and generalization."

She said potentially adding to the obstacles are face masks as kids learn from others and model language.

"That's expressive language, body language, your social interactions so it's all modeling and when half your face is covered, you're missing a huge component of that," she said.

As soon as vaccines started rolling out and some restrictions lifted, Benjamin had aged out of early intervention. Amanda scrambled to find private therapy.

"We tried three places and two out of three couldn't take any new patients," she said.

They did get in with one and are now hoping to make up for lost time.

Many families, through private or early intervention, are still on a waiting list to start in-person sessions.

Lombardi recommends checking with your insurance company to try to find which options will be covered and ask for resources from private services or your pediatrician.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.