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Frequently Asked Questions

Bringing clarity

What do I do to get help?

Make contact with Star Language & Literacy directly. We do not require a referral from anyone other than you.

Does speech therapy always work?

The short answer is “it always works, but for some people more than others”. Speech-language therapy is an individualised service, which aims to help you or your loved one’s communication skills progress from where they are currently. It has made a significant difference for a number of families and everyone can benefit from speech-language therapy to some degree.

However, if there is an on-going physiological disorder present such as hearing loss or cleft palate, speech-language therapy services may only minimise communication difficulties – not eliminate them entirely. Augmentative and alternative communication may be appropriate in these cases, which speech and language therapy can support. No matter what the underlying issues are, Vocalsaints will always provide professional and research-based practice, and investigate different therapy options based on best clinical judgement.

What causes speech and/or language difficulties?

While this is a difficult question to answer, in a general sense the following are categories that often involved:

  • Genetic – there’s a family history.

  • Medical causes, including hearing loss and chronic ear infections. Premature birth.

  • Characteristics as part of a syndrome other on-going medical disorder.

  • Brain injury: before, during, or after birth. General lack of the stimulus to learn language.

  • And sometimes there may be no known cause for a person’s communication disorder.

Speech-language therapy treats what is known – the presenting and underlying difficulties.

What is the difference between speech and language?

Speech involves the sounds to make up words, e.g. “d”, “g”, “s”. It is the physical formation of sounds and the sequencing of these sounds to say a word, e.g. “d—o—g” makes the word “dog”. Speech difficulties can involve deletion, substitution, or physical inability to form sounds.

Language is divided into two areas: comprehension and expression. Comprehension is the act of understanding the verbal and non-verbal communication that another person provides to us; this involves attention, listening, and mental processing skills. Expression is the aspect of language that we generate – it is what we say. Expressive language involves words, syntax (word order) and our use of grammar, for example saying “cats” means “more than one of them”. For some people, "expression" comes in the form of sign, picture or high-tech device.

Note that there is an aspect of talking that is related to fluency, in which someone may, for example, have difficulty talking smoothly and easily. You may wish to refer to our “stuttering” section for further information on fluency.

Why not just 'wait and see'?

The difficulty with ‘wait and see’ is the unknown of whether this is all that is required or not. How long are you prepared to wait to see whether or not your loved one will make the necessary progress to catch up to their peers? What if ‘wait and see’ means that your loved one is now even further behind because of the missed time waiting? For peace of mind, get the advice and guidance of a qualified Speech Language Therapist.

Starting early does not lock you in to any kind of therapy. By starting early, you will be helping your loved one and easing your mind.

Should I be worried?

Please reference Speech-Language-Developmental-Milestones to determine how your child is developing compared with average expectancy for similar aged children. If your child is below or on the lower end then seek out the advice and guidance of a qualified Speech-Language Therapist. Many parents have been told not to worry and their child hasn’t progressed as they would have anticipated. By starting early, you will be helping your child or at least easing your mind that their development is on the right track.

What should I do if I am concerned about my child's speech or language development?

A Speech-Language Therapist is a specialist who is uniquely trained to provide the best information on speech and language development and anything related to communication. If you are unable to arrange to speak with a Speech Language Therapist then talk with your GP and express your concerns. Private Therapy does not require a referral so you can contact one directly yourself. Parents/caregivers know their child the best, so if there are any concerns it is better to start intervening early. If you are “just worrying for nothing”, a discussion and possible initial assessment will at least reassure you that there is nothing else you need to do right now.

Can hearing/ear problems during childhood affect my child's speech and/or language development?

Children learn speech sounds, words, concepts, and grammar by listening. This begins from birth and is fine-tuned as children get older. If a child has on-going or regular sore, blocked, or waxy ears, this will impact on their ability to learn the skills. If you have any concerns about your child’s ears or hearing, please have them checked by your GP. If you want certainty that your child is hearing as they should for their age, see a qualified Audiologist for an assessment (they can do these for very young children too).

How old does my child need to be before starting with speech language therapy?

Therapy can start from as young as 16 months of age. For very young children who have no-to- little language, their therapy is different to someone who is older and can work directly with a Therapist. Often the best way to start developing a young child’s language is through a family member/parent who can implement strategies and techniques throughout the child’s day.

Therapy for this group is done through modelling, guiding and up-skilling key adults with specific language-enriching techniques. By starting therapy at a younger age you are giving your child the best start and reducing frustration by them not having their needs understood or met. For a number of families, by starting with their child very young, they have been able to get the individualised support as the correct underlying difficulties were identified and appropriate treatment could begin early.

How much therapy will I (or my child) need?

The speech-language therapy process may require a small handful of sessions, or need frequent sessions for over a year. A useful estimate for children’s treatment is around eight to twelve once-weekly sessions, as this has been a common duration historically. Bear in mind that there are several factors affecting the overall duration of treatment. In addition to cost, the overall treatment duration is also affected by the frequency of therapy, the severity of presenting communication difficulties and the intensity/consistency of home support. Support and practice time at home is important, because if more is done there, overall progress will be faster and treatment techniques will take less time to generalise into daily language.

Star Language & Literacy attempts to cater for a range of different needs by offering various types of services: These range from one-off discussion and guidance sessions, to home programmes, to one-on-one therapy. With all types of treatment, parents are kept well informed and the regularity of appointments is always in discussion with the parent/caregiver.


When supporting individuals with more severe communication disorders, allowing a slightly longer treatment duration will deliver several benefits. Firstly, it will allow time for consolidation of their therapy targets, and integration into everyday conversation. A second benefit comes in the advocacy an SLT provides for children in their schooling. Many schools may not have the special education infrastructure or funding to fully understand a child’s communication needs and help them continue the academic process.


In this case, an SLT can help by:

Contributing to Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings; Liaising with Teachers’ Aides; and Recommending a range of other in-class strategies to help a child receive the very most out of their schooling.

What can I expected from speech language therapy?

Professional knowledge and experience tailoring what is required to make a positive difference in the areas of communication concern. Speech-language therapy is science! The strategies and techniques used in speech-language therapy are evidence-based, derived from research and/or years and year and years of experience working alongside children, adults and their families.

Typically, a therapy session involves a Therapist working directly with the individual. For children this is usually within a game, which is either the specific therapy target or as a motivator. Some older children and young adults also play therapeutic games! This is followed by an explanation to the parent/caregiver regarding what was worked on, how the individual progressed and how they can be supported at home to continue consolidating their target. For children and adults in therapy, each family is provided with the information and resources to do home-based reinforcement.

What does speech language therapy look like?

Engaging, informative and fun! Therapy is unique to the individual – it is tailored based on the communication concern and severity, as well as the age of the individual. There are no set programmes used in therapy but aspects of programmes can be incorporated to achieve the best results. Due to the wide range of skills that speech-language therapy can support therapy is different for each person.

Are sessions enough to make a change?

Therapy sessions are a very good place to start making a positive change. Significant or preferred/realistic outcomes are based on participants (children and their parents, and adult clients) who are engaged, participating and following the Therapist’s recommendations. There is always home practice strategies or tasks provided to be reinforced between therapy appointments.

Why choose private speech language therapy?

In the New Zealand context, private means that the ‘user’ pays for the service. While there is still a code of ethics that all Therapists need to follow, there are often no set restrictions for accessing a private service. This is significant for those who are not New Zealand residents and are unable to access publicly funded services. Also for those who do not want to wait until a place has become available.

All Speech-Language Therapists – public or private – have the specialised training, skills and experience to assess and treat an individual’s communication difficulties. In New Zealand, speech-language therapy services can be accessed through several sources:

  • Through private practitioners such as Vocalsaints, you can receive help almost immediately, but a fee is charged for their services. Private therapy is focused, specific and tailored direct hands-on therapy with a qualified Speech Language Therapist. Generally there is less movement of Therapists in private practice, therefore it can often a higher continuity of care.

  • Publicly, through the Ministry of Education (MoE). Public speech-language therapy is free, but has strictly limited acceptance criteria based on a child’s age (3-8 years) and the severity of their communication disorder (moderate-severe). Public speech therapy entails a waiting list which varies between cities but can range from six to twelve months long. Public therapy is more consultation and guidance with ups-killing to Teachers and parents on how they can support the child themselves.

  • Through hospitals, who may provide a Speech-Language Therapist free of charge and with little-to-no waiting list, if communication disorders have arisen due to an accident or medical issue, or under 2 years of age.

Private and public practitioners can often collaborate to provide support, with clients starting private therapy while on the waiting list for MoE services. Private Speech-Language Therapists then transfer their client’s treatment notes across to public therapists when they become available.

Some families request that public and private therapists work together, as there can be two areas of difficulty that can be treated at once. In this case, each Therapist would see the client separately.

How do I make a referral?

We do not require a referral from anyone other than you. Just make contact with us directly and we’ll take it from there. 

What happens when I see a Speech Language Therapist?

The first appointment is for finding out information about the person in question – you, your child or older loved one. This can be through discussion with you (the caregiver or family member), as well as formal and/or informal testing, which can involve observation of the child playing or interacting with you and maybe his/her peers. From here, areas in need of support are identified, goals are set up and specific therapy can start as required. These will be discussed with you.

Therapy appointments are goal-focussed, informative and engaging. Especially for children, appointments are fun and full of therapeutic games.

Do I, as a parent/caregiver, need to be involved in sessions?

With a therapy appointment, some parents are actively involved while others are in the background. You know your child the best! Some children perform poorly while their parent is in the same room while other children won’t focus at all without their parent present. Whatever the scenario, it is important that an adult is available to debrief after each session. Your involvement is vital for your child’s generalisation and consolidation of skills. As a parent/caregiver, you are with your child more often than a Therapist and can reinforce your child’s learning. Vocalsaints will provide you with specific targets to be developed as homework, and the resources for their implementation.

What does assessment look like?

An assessment is about gathering specific information about the area of concern. Assessment can be through discussion, working through a questionnaire, completing a formal assessment tool, and/or observations of the individual in action. The information gathered forms the bases of the therapy treatment plan and recommendations. To help make the most of their time in therapy, caregivers may be asked to fill in questionnaires at home. For more complex situations the assessment process can take additional appointments to gather the necessary information before proceeding with the best treatment approach.

What is the length of a session?

Following an initial consultation or assessment, Star Language & Literacy offers 30 minute, 45 minute, and 60 minute long therapy appointment options. Appointments are individualised based on the age and need of the situation. Time is spent working directly with a Therapist as well as being informed about what can be done to support and consolidate until the next appointment.

How often are sessions?

The more regular the therapy sessions the easier it is to support and gauge progress. Therapy is typically recommended once per week. In some instances one per fortnight is more appropriate. Some families benefit from 2-3 shorter sessions per week. Regardless of the amount or frequency of therapy, it is important that practice happens between therapy appointments.

How many sessions are needed?

Often an initial block of 8-12 weekly therapy appointments gets the area of concern under way in the right direction. The amount and frequency of therapy is based upon the presenting concerns and their severity, as well as the age of the individual. Since everyone's situation is unique, a clearer picture can be discussed once information has been gathered at an initial appointment. The Speech-Language Therapist can provide specific guidance and recommendations regarding your particular situation after this.

When will I/my child be closes from this service?

Once the agreed goals set out from the start have been met, or once s/he reaches age-appropriate development and it is anticipated that s/he will continue to make gains themselves. We may also discontinue therapy if it is contraindicated; such as for a short time after having grommets inserted, or if you no longer want to continue (which can be discussed at any time).

What is the cost involved?

Firstly, consider the long-term cost of money, time, frustration and disappointment if the communication concern isn’t rectified at a young age. Even little delays at a young age can turn into much bigger delays or gaps to peers.

The financial investment is dependent on what is required. For some individuals "advice, guidance and monitoring" is enough to support age-appropriate development. For others it is a longer journey. For those experiencing moderate difficulties, many would require 6-12 months of specialist input to achieve their targeted goals. It is best to speak with a Speech Language Therapist to gain a clearer idea of what is required. There are different therapeutic options available which can be discussed at this first appointment.

To get an idea of what kind of costs might be involved, please go to our booking page which has our current prices. You do not need to book an appointment before seeing these details.

How can I pay for appointments?

Typically we email an invoice following an appointment which is payable within 24 hours of the service received. It is possible to pay by credit card if you book your appointment using our online booking system. We do not handle cash. We also accept bank transfers or automatic payments and you can use your name as a reference so it is allocated appropriately. We can arrange a payment plan but this needs to be agreed upon before any appointments take place.

Can I get financial help to cover treatment costs?

In some circumstances, WINZ, ACC or your insurance company may subsidise or fully fund the costs of speech-language therapy. Each of the above organisations has different criteria which you or your child would need to meet in order to receive their financial support. For example, WINZ may cover the costs of speech-language therapy if a person has a communication disorder that is likely to last six months or more and which causes them to need support to undertake the normal activities of life. Children who have a documented disability will be receiving an allowance which families put towards speech-language therapy. However, if you are receiving speech-language therapy through the public system, even sitting on a waiting list, WINZ do not fund private therapy.

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