FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

FOCUS Therapy Only Schedules Evaluations if We Have Space to Treat Your Child

Evaluations are an important step in the process of securing speech, occupational, physical, and/or ABA therapy for your child. But parents and caregivers should be wary of facilities that offer these evaluations while lacking capacity to immediately treat the child.

FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco explains that unless her team is being called on for a second opinion of an initial evaluation, they refrain from conducting formal assessments if unable to promptly provide treatment once the evaluation is complete.

“A standardized assessment is only a snapshot in time during the child’s development,” Voltz-Ronco said. “It’s like taking a picture of a child now, and then expecting it not to change in a few months. … If your child cannot access therapy within 1 or 2 months of that evaluation, the results are no longer going to be accurate. Kids develop new skills every few months. But the longer the child goes without therapy, the more significant that standard score comparison/discrepancy to same-age peers is going to be.”

Jennifer Voltz-Ronco FOCUS Therapy Owner
Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder

Beyond this, families who rely on insurance to cover the cost of these evaluations (and they aren’t cheap) should be aware that insurers typically only cover one evaluation every six months or so. Even though clinics can utilize standardized assessments administered by another, it’s not ideal.

“Your child gets the most benefit when the team that directly observed your child’s abilities and deficits are the ones who ultimately formulate a plan of care and follow through with treatment,” Voltz-Ronco said. “In my opinion, it’s unethical for a clinic to profit from an evaluation that reveals a child is delayed or needs intervention – without providing that help.”

Types of Pediatric Evaluations FOCUS Therapy Offers

Children are usually referred to FOCUS Therapy and other therapy specialists by their primary care physician. Evaluations are typically ordered when a child is showing some developmental deficit, such as not sitting up or crawling, not talking or making regular eye contact, or red flags for a possible cognitive deficit. They could also be diagnosed with a condition that we can pretty well say for certain is going to require some combination of therapy services (such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, vision impairments or hearing deficits).

Depending on the child’s condition and identified areas of concern, qualified therapists will be scheduled to conduct age-appropriate assessments to determine the need for therapy intervention services.

The specifics of the evaluation may vary, but they are generally going to include:

  • A look at case history, including medical status, education, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and information from other providers.
  • Child and/or parent interview.
  • Review of the child’s auditory, visual, motor, and cognitive status.
  • Standardized and non-standardized assessments of specific aspects of speech, non-spoken language, swallowing function, cognitive communication, etc.
  • Assessment of self-care and/or self-awareness.
  • Skilled observation. This is where we keenly observe an accurately record a child’s abilities and behaviors.

There are several different types of standardized tests (including the ADOS test for autism screening, which FOCUS Therapy also provides).

“If a parent wants a second or third opinion after their child has been evaluated by a school or another provider, that’s one thing,” Voltz-Ronco. “But they’re most likely going to pay for that out-of-pocket – and they’re going to understand the purpose upfront. But if parents are looking for action, to get the ball rolling on the therapy interventions that a child needs, then the clinic conducting the assessment should be able to provide that.”

Not all of them do. Therefore, it’s incumbent on parents to ask the question before scheduling the assessment.

“We’ve gotten calls from parents of children who were evaluated other clinics, only to be told after the fact that the clinic did not have the ability to treat their child,” Voltz-Ronco said. “They were told to just call around and see what other clinics may be able to use the report generated from their assessment. That, to me, is not ethical.

“It’s a situation where parents need to be aware of this issue, and make sure they are asking the question upfront: ‘If I schedule this assessment and my child needs treatment, do you have the capacity to provide that treatment?’ If not, I would advise parents to move on and find a place with the capacity and willingness to do both.”

FOCUS offers ADOS testing and other standardized assessments in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida for children who may need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or ABA therapy. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Assessment and Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders in Schools, American Speech-Language Hearing Association

More Blog Entries:

ADOS Testing, FOCUSFlorida.com

FOCUS Therapy evaluations

Why FOCUS Asks Parents to Stay in the Waiting Room During Evals, Sessions

FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers conducts a range of in-depth evaluations for children who have been referred for speech, occupational, physical, or ABA therapies as well as ADOS testing. During our evaluations and therapy sessions, we rarely allow families to directly participate – but we have evidence-based reasons for our position.

During evaluations, we want to ensure every child receives an assessment that is as accurate as possible because that is what is going to allow us to:

  • Determine whether the child needs therapy.
  • Calculate the frequency/level of therapy that might be recommended.
  • Make a strong case to the relevant insurer(s) about the medical necessity of the therapy.

Parents, when present in the room during FOCUS evaluations, can unwittingly stand in the way of those goals. Why? Mainly because children rely on their caregivers when things get tough – to help them, to comfort them, to make it better. When a child is struggling in a certain area, such as communication or independence with self-care skills, our clinicians need to independently observe the particulars.

Parent input is a key aspect of our evaluations, but we need to see for ourselves, too. Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, MS-CCC/SLP and FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder, explained that when a child is accompanied by a parent during the direct observation portion of the assessment, parents often interfere without intending to do so or even realizing it.FOCUS Therapy

“For example, in speech evaluations, parents might talk to the child or give clues to help their child ‘get the right answer’,” Voltz-Ronco explained. “We might ask the child to point to an object out of an array of 3-4 items by saying, ‘Show me the cup.’ Standardized testing requires that we be very specific in how we present these items – and with the requirement that we wait. And while we wait, we’re looking to see how long it takes them to process the directive and what they do. Will they look at us to see if we’re looking at the object? Will they point to it or make a face if they’re unsure? They might associate a cup to mealtime and instead point to a cookie. If the child looks to our face to get a clue, that would indicate social awareness and joint attention – key pre-linguistic communication skills. If there is a delay in their response, there may be an auditory processing issue. If they grab the first thing in reach, they may have impulsivity issues. Watching a child while they’re thinking tells us so much. But parents in the room might think the evaluator presumes the child doesn’t know the answer, so they interject. They say to the child, ‘You know what a cup is, like the blue sippie cup you have at home.’ Unfortunately, what that does is give the child numerous opportunities to hear the word, ‘cup,’ and in many standardized tests, we aren’t allowed to repeat the word or give a description or synonym. So with that, we lose the opportunity to see what we needed to see, and must in turn score the response incorrectly – which impacts the overall results.”

She went on to explain that often the key responses FOCUS therapists are looking for aren’t necessarily what an untrained observer may presume.

What’s more, some children can become what we call “prompt dependent.” That means the child looks to the parent to prompt them (to take an action, answer a question, etc.) – even if they don’t necessarily need the prompt. Many of our team members are parents ourselves, so we wholeheartedly understand how difficult it is to wait for your child to “do it themselves.” It is actually instinctual to intervene when we see or sense our child needs help. But during these evaluations, this intervention – however slight – can actually prove more of a hindrance when what we’re seeking are accurate results.

We DO Want Parents Involved in Their Child’s Therapy Journey

Although it is important for parents to remain outside the room during evaluations, this does not mean we lack transparency or that we don’t want parents involved at all in the therapy process. In fact, we get the best results from therapy when parents are fully engaged!

But we discourage direct engagement during the evaluation process and therapy sessions because we want to ensure our findings are accurate and that your child gets the true level of support they need.

While we want parents to be involved in consultation, goal-setting, education, and carryover, we strongly advise parents against sitting in during therapy sessions for the following reasons:

FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

FOCUS Therapy Opening Second Fort Myers Location Near Gulf Coast

Big news, FOCUS Family: FOCUS Therapy is opening a second location in Fort Myers!

Our new FOCUS Therapy location, conveniently situated near FGCU, Gulf Coast Town Center and Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), will allow us to expand our vital services (speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapies and ADOS testing) to hundreds more children in one of the fastest-growing communities in the country.

The new FOCUS Gulf Coast Office, located at 9961 Interstate Commerce Dr., Unit 150 & 160, will officially open its doors Aug. 9, 2021. This new facility will allow us the capacity to ultimately onboard an additional 20 therapists and treat 200 more children than our existing patient list. We’ve hired 10 new therapists to start, and will bring on more as we grow throughout the next year.

“Opening this new site is both extremely exciting and deeply humbling,” said FOCUS Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “I set out to fill a critical need in this community 10 years ago, at a time when there weren’t enough clinics providing pediatric therapy in Southwest Florida. There still aren’t. As the population in our area continues to grow at a rapid speed, the demand for quality therapy has expanded at an even faster clip. This brings us one step closer to ensuring all children in Southwest Florida have access to the therapy services they need to succeed.”FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

At our existing location on Royal Gulf Circle off Colonial Boulevard, we have a waitlist of 160 children. Similar waitlists are reported at other pediatric therapy clinics throughout Southwest Florida.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, roughly 9 percent of kids in the U.S. have a speech sound disorder. Further, about 5 percent of kids have a noticeable speech disorder by 1st grade. Now consider that in 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That’s 1 in 34 boys and 1 in 144 girls, with diagnoses being reliably made as early as 18 months. There is a mountain of clinical evidence showing these kids can thrive – but only with access to intensive, early intervention therapies (speech therapy, occupational therapy and applied behavior analysis).

Whether we’re talking about a speech delay, down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury or other condition, the more assistance a child receives early on, the better their odds of school readiness, social engagement, academic success and long-term independence. That’s because neuropathways for young children are still developing, and young minds are little sponges for new knowledge. This ability of the brain to change, rewire, relearn and strengthen key connections is called neuroplasticity. It’s especially agile during early childhood, and that’s why we’re so adamant in preaching early intervention. It’s also why we couldn’t delay any longer in opening a second FOCUS Therapy clinic location.

“Children cannot wait for services this important,” Voltz-Ronco said. “This new Gulf Coast location of FOCUS Therapy is going to allow us to reach more kids in this community – and faster – benefiting not just themselves, but their families, the schools and our entire community as a whole.”FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy and ADOS testing in Fort Myers. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

More Blog Entries:

Therapy Isn’t a Quick-Fix – Why You Should Still Follow Our Course Until Successful, May 7, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Why FOCUS Therapy Celebrates With “Therapy Graduation” Ceremonies, Sept. 5, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Fort Myers ADOS testing

Study: ADOS Testing Measures Autism Risk Equally Well in Boys and Girls

ADOS testing, also known as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, was found in a recent, large study to measure severity of autism traits equally well in both girls and boys. This is good news because research has shown doctors may misdiagnose or overlook autism in girls, because it can sometimes look a little different than it does in boys. Boys are four times more likely to have a diagnosis than girls.

FOCUS offers ADOS testing in Fort Myers at our pediatric therapy clinic. Early diagnosis is important for both girls and boys to be able to access early intervention support and therapy, so it’s important that the testing effectively recognizes the symptoms in all kids. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1 in 59 kids have an autism diagnosis.

As our Florida ABA therapy team can explain, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition impacting one’s ability to communicate and socialize with others. However, it’s necessary to recognize that symptoms of autism can very significantly from person-to-person. (Hence the phrase, “If you’ve met one person with autism… you’ve met one person with autism.) Still, girls may not always fit the “traditional” understanding of a person who has autism. In some cases, they may also be better at hiding it.

Fort Myers ADOS testing

The Deal With Fort Myers ADOS Testing: FOCUS ABA Therapy for Autism Starts With ADOS

This year, FOCUS began offering Fort Myers ADOS testing to help families obtain an autism diagnosis as soon as possible, helping to facilitate early intervention treatment for children as young as 18 months.

Autism spectrum disorder is an increasingly common lifelong condition characterized by social and communication deficits that can mildly or significantly impede one’s ability to function in daily life. There is no “cure” for autism, and neither do we know exactly what causes it. Plus, there is no blood or genetic testing we can run to give us a for-sure answer. All this makes timely, accurate diagnosis of autism difficult.

What we can say is this: An early autism diagnosis, followed by a combination of intensive speech, behavioral (ABA) and occupational therapy has proven the most effective when it comes to the best long-term prognoses. In other words:

The sooner autism is identified and diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated – and the better chance your child has at a happy, healthy, independent life.

Most children with autism display clear signs prior to age 2. This is the best time to intervene.