Are your programs in person or virtual? Where are you located?
Although our office is based just north of Toronto, we are pleased to offer our programs and services through virtual care (telepractice). , Families from across Ontario seek out our services because of our unique focus on friendship skills for kids and teens with strong language and thinking skills . We’ve worked with clients from North Bay to Toronto, from Windsor to Ottawa, and many places in between! Offering our services virtually means that we can accommodate all interested families in all of our programs, rather than only those local to our office. Parents and teens participate online in the evenings, through our secure online platform. Families with younger children are seen virtually for adult group learning in the evening and individual parent and child coaching sessions after school or on weekends.
Are any of your programs available in the publicly funded system?
Yes, some children may be able to access TalkAbility™ through provincially preschool speech and language programs. Teens with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder may be able to participate in a PEERS® Program through their school system and we strongly encourage you to explore these options. At Connections SLP, we welcome all children and teens with social learning and friendship needs. Our services do not require any documented diagnoses.
Another agency seems to offer the same service as you but the cost is quite different. Why is this?
Our services are offered only by highly experienced speech-language pathologists registered to practice in Ontario. Our staff are all Master’s-level trained clinicians and our rates are based upon current recommended fees for speech-language pathologists in Ontario. When comparing what appears to be the same program through different services, families should ask about the experience and credentials of the provider, how many total hours of service are involved and whether the service is for children/teens only or if there is also a parent learning component. All of our programs include interactive weekly parent/caregiver sessions so that kids/teens can be well supported in taking their skills outside of the group.
Can I use Ontario Autism Program funding or extended health benefits for your programs?
Yes, you can. All of our programs are delivered by speech-language pathologists registered to practice in Ontario, and are therefore eligible under the OAP funding and extended health benefits covering speech-language pathology services. The Ontario Autism Program does allow families to use their funding a number of ways, including parent education, as long as it is for the child/teen registered with the OAP. We are happy to answer any questions about funding that you may have.
For families who wish to confirm that our services will be covered by extended health benefits prior to working with us, we are happy to provide an explanatory letter that can be submitted to your insurer.
Please note that families are billed directly for our services.
I am looking for a social skills group for my child/teen. Is this what you offer?
Connections SLP does not offer traditional social skills groups. We work virtually with families of highly verbal kids across Ontario, and thus do not offer local in-person groups. In addition, our focus is on helping kids and teens to make meaningful connections with others of their choosing, rather than whomever happens to be attending the group at the same time. Often, kids who come to us have had negative experiences in social skills groups because the other members or and/or the behaviour expectations or focus of the group were not a good fit for them.
Our focus is on helping our clients to determine and achieve their own goals in ways that build upon their strengths and interests. In addition, we believe strongly that for kids and teens who are trying to find their place in the social world, having a supportive adult who knows just how to help is a key piece of the journey. As a result, we include parents or other invested adults in all of our programs so that they can act as a knowledgeable and supportive coach for their kids. By helping parents learn how and when to coach, children and teens can continue to succeed long after their time with us is complete.
Families leave each session with a specific plan to coach your child or teen as you and they apply the strategies and concepts introduced in that week’s session to their activities, interests and routines. Each week builds upon the previous one, and participants leave our programs with a set of tools that allows them to continue to achieve their social goals beyond the duration of their time with us.
Our older kids and teens do have an opportunity to meet online, but the goal is to have a safe place to discuss and explore different skills needed for personally meaningful social experiences, rather than to make friends with each other. In fact, we explicitly do not allow teens in our groups to meet outside of the group until it is completed, as we want the group to be a comfortable place for everyone to learn and grow together as they learn about themselves and take their new strategies into their own lives.
If you are looking for a social skills group for your child or teen only, we would be happy to provide resources for you, but this is not a service that we offer.
What is an initial social learning consultation?
We meet with every family for an initial social learning consultation (ISLC) to ensure appropriate placement in our programs/services. Because we offer some programs that are developed externally (e.g., TalkAbility™, PEERS), we need to ensure that your understanding of the program matches the actual description of the program, and, more importantly, that it is truly the right fit for your family. We meet and work with you to create the right support plan. For older children/teens, this is also an opportunity for them to meet us, understand what we do and choose whether they feel they would like to move forward.
Each family begins with a complimentary intake phone call with our intake and client services co-ordinator. At this time, she will gather preliminary information about what you are looking for and share information with you about the programs and services we offer which may be a good fit for your family. Based on this discussion, she will offer you the choice to complete an intake form and then participate in a 60-minute initial social learning consultation with our director or one of our speech-language pathologists. You will leave the ISLC with a feel for our team, additional resources and either a plan to move forward with Connections SLP or an alternate plan/set of resources/referrals if it is determined that our services are not right for your family at this time. There is a fee for this clinical service.
Families who want to ask questions of our director before booking an ISLC will be offered a 15-minute “Get to Know Connections SLP” appointment at no charge. This is not a clinical appointment, and the focus is on answering questions about our service. It is not a clinical consultation for your child/teen.
Will you assess my child? And do you offer speech (articulation) or language therapy?
We provide a very focused service, built on our passion for and expertise in working with groups of children and teens and their families, and therefore we do not offer general communication assessments or therapy. We are happy to review previous assessments or therapy summaries prior to starting any of our services or programs. We will always work with your family to build on these as we work together to determine your child or teen’s current strengths and needs in order to set goals and provide personalized strategies.
I am working with another professional already. Will you work together with them?
Yes, we are always happy to collaborate with you and others supporting your family, but we are also keenly aware that more is not always better. Before we begin to work with your family, we will take time to understand how our team and the time you will spend with us will be helpful for you. We know that sometimes decisions to introduce other professionals are made because funding has suddenly become available, but we want to ensure that seeing us is something you and your child/teen look forward to and truly have time for. Our supports are short but intense, and we often have waiting lists for our groups so we want to make sure that we are not duplicating what is being done with another professional or creating stress for a child or teen who already has a lot on their plate due to multiple therapy and/or tutoring appointments.