November 7, 2022

With Help From Health Plans, More Speech and Hearing Intervention for Kids

James O. Dye, MSW, LISW, President & CEO, Columbus Speech & Hearing

Speech, language, and hearing disorders are overlooked childhood health issues. Across the United States, one in 10 children experiences a communication delay or disorder related to speech sounds, receptive language, expressive language, stuttering, voice, literacy, or social interaction skills.

In central Ohio, we’re seeing an alarmingly high increase in the number of children who may be facing these delays and disorders. In 2019 we performed speech and hearing screenings in 12 neighborhoods and saw a 27% failure rate for speech and language evaluations and a 21% failure rate for hearing tests. Just two years later, in 2021, those numbers had practically doubled, to 52% for speech and language and 40% for hearing.

This is why we’re so grateful for the help of Ohio’s Medicaid managed care plans to boost our ability to provide more screenings and intervention. In September, Columbus Speech & Hearing received $975,000 for our Early Identification and Intervention program. The Ohio Association of Health Plans presented the grant on behalf the Anthem, Buckeye, CareSource, Molina and UnitedHealthcare plans.

The plans have made several grants as part of their collective community investment process and we feel fortunate to be chosen.

We plan to use the funds to support these initiatives:

  • Reach in services, including educational seminars for parents and other caregivers, teaching them how to recognize the warning signs of speech and hearing problems to access resources that could help them.
  • Screenings and evaluations, both in-person and virtually.
  • Newborn hearing screenings, using state-of-the-art equipment, for babies who fail their hearing screenings in the hospital.
  • Early intervention services, including speech-language therapy sessions and audiology services for hearing loss that can be treated with amplification.

Treatment for speech and hearing disorders is appropriate at any age, but early identification and treatment exponentially improves the odds of a child achieving academic success and self-reliant independence as an adult. Without identification and appropriate referral for intervention, preschool-aged children with communication deficits will not develop the language and communication skills they need to enter kindergarten prepared to learn.

Likewise, a child who enters kindergarten without the communication tools required to succeed will not be Third-grade-reading-ready, and the domino effect will go on well into adulthood.

Through our Early Identification and Intervention program, we’ve been able to help thousands of preschool-aged children in the greater Columbus area by providing speech-language and hearing screenings to identify communication challenges early in their lives.

In addition, the program has provided families with referrals, follow-up evaluations, and speech-language early intervention services to ensure that these children have the skills needed to succeed in kindergarten.

We’re excited that we’ll be able to expand these offerings in 2023 to the neighborhoods where they’re needed the most. For nearly 100 years, we have been the leading nonprofit serving communication needs in central Ohio. We remain focused on our mission of helping all people improve communication and independence and raising awareness of communication challenges.