When parents try to understand their child’s diagnosis and become active participants in the therapy process,
there are benefits not just for the child but for the parents and therapist too.
Parents are the true experts on their children, but the process of evaluation and the development of a therapy plan can sometimes be intimidating for parents.
According to Hagstrom (1994, p.243) parental involvement is seen as “Essential to assessment and treatment because the talk of the child is jointly constructed with them and within home activities”
It is the therapist’s responsibility to get to know the child through the parents’ eyes.
Parents are important partners for acquiring speech and language skills; they are a constant in a child’s life whereas services and professionals change over time. It is the therapist’s responsibility to get to know the child through the parents’ eyes.
Parents who are involved in the therapy process are more likely to be comfortable giving valuable feedback to the therapist. Such feedback helps the therapist to determine the next steps in the therapy process in consultation with the parent. This means that the therapist and the parent work together as a team to develop the best possible intervention programme for the child.
Input from parents can also help the therapist recognise what is working well for the child and their family and also help to identify what is not working and may need to be changed.
Parents can also learn how to take home what their child is working on in therapy and become involved in overcoming their childâ€™s speech and language challenges. This always leads to the best outcomes in therapy.
This means that the therapist and the parent work together as a team to
develop the best possible intervention programme for the child.
Muma (1998) also addressed parental involvement and its importance. He discussed some outcomes of parent participation in speech intervention. He found that children usually do better with their parents present during sessions, as children want to show parents they have the skills to perform the intervention tasks.
This is why the CATTS therapists always encourage parents to sit in on the therapy sessions where possible!
When the speech therapist teaches parents strategies to promote speech and language skills that parents then use whenever they are with their child, “therapy” becomes a natural part of the family’s interactions with their child.
This is known as parent-implemented intervention.
Many studies have shown that parents can effectively be taught how to promote their child’s communication. Roberts and Kaiser (2011) discovered that as a result of participating in a variety of parent-implemented training programs:
- Parents successfully learned the strategies and used them when interacting with their child.
- Parents’ use of strategies led to improvements in their child’s expressive language, their understanding of language, vocabulary, grammar and the frequency with which their child communicated.
- Children with a variety of speech and language difficulties made good progress when their parents were trained to help them.
How can you as a parent expect to become involved in your child’s therapy?
The speech therapist will teach specific techniques/strategies to you to help facilitate your child’s communication development. These will be modelled for you by the therapist during a session and you will be given the chance to practice them while being observed by the therapist and then given feedback.
The therapist will share regular progress reports with you and you will be given regular feedback based on observations of your child during therapy. This is also a time when the therapist discusses with the parent how they are feeling about progress so far. The therapist usually asks if there are any goals that the parent would like to prioritise or anything new that may need to be addressed.
Your availability, willingness to participate and home environment will be taken into account when making decisions about the extent of parental involvement in therapy. Home programmes are provided in view of how much information parents would like to receive. The therapist will work collaboratively with you to develop a home programme that you both feel is adequate and achievable.
You will be asked about your child’s progress at home/in school regarding their communication difficulty in order for the therapist to find out what strategies may or may not be working successfully and need to be amended. It is truly important that a parent can say when something is not working, so that the plan can be adjusted to suit accordingly. Honesty is the best policy.
You will be provided with support and information to enhance your child’s communication development.
Parents make the difference!
Parental involvement in therapy is effective not only because parents play a key role in their child’s life, but also because intervention becomes an ongoing process and every interaction with the child becomes an opportunity to promote their communication development.
You are the core member of the team!
Hagstrom, F.W. (1994) Therapy at home: Vygotskian perspectives on parental involvement. Clinics in communication disorders. 4(4), 237-245
Muma, J. (1998) Effective Speech-language Pathology: a Cognitive Socialization Approach. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum
Roberts, M., & Kaiser, A. (2011) The Effectiveness of Parent-Implemented Language Intervention: A Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20, 180-199.