Our interactions with caregivers can influence their perception of outcomes as well as actual outcomes for children with developmental speech concerns. Studies suggest that family stress related to a child’s diagnosis may result from external issues, such as misdiagnosis or professionals lacking knowledge about treatment and resources.1 This highlights the importance of us, as professionals, to provide competent treatment and education about resources.
Key factors in empowerment include:
- Knowledge of available resources
- Relationship building
- Demonstration of appropriate techniques and behaviors
Knowledge About Resources
Caregivers adapt more positively to a child’s challenges when they accurately understand the child’s impairment.1-4 We can accomplish this by guiding caregivers towards resources such as support groups and other educational opportunities.
The relational aspect of empowerment comes from building a constructive relationship with the caregiver. Positive interactions are critical in developing these positive relationships and parent adaptation.1 Even one positive interaction appears to be powerful enough to cancel out multiple negative interactions.1
Caregivers who feel that their culture and values are respected are more likely to engage as partners in the process of intervention. As Glogowska & Campbell (2000) noted, “…when parents’ views are considered, a fuller understanding of the effectiveness and acceptability of treatment can emerge.”4
Specific instructions enable parents to fully participate in the intervention. Once the relationship with the caregiver is built, intervention can focus on target behaviors that are relevant to the child and their family. These may include activities carried out by the caregivers or other community members outside of structured treatment sessions. Instruction can include techniques such as:
- How to cue effectively
- How to balance practice with unstructured time
- How to embed practice in daily activities, such as book-reading, playing at the park, or helping with household tasks
Empowered caregivers, who actively participate in the intervention process, maximize the effects of the intervention. An increasing number of studies show that empowerment results from relationships built on trust in the clinician’s ability to provide treatment and resources as well as positive interactions, and on eliciting caregiver participation in a way that respects their family culture.
- Miron C. (2012). When a Child is Diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 33,
- Dempsey, I., & Dunst, C. J. (2004). Helpgiving styles and parent empowerment in families with a young child with a disability. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 29, 40-51. Retrieved September 22, 2009, from EBSCO databases.
- Dunst, C. J., & Dempsey, I. (2007). Family-professional partnerships and parenting competence, confidence, and enjoyment. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 54(3), 305-318. Retrieved September 22, 2009, from EBSCO databases.
- Glogowska, M., & Campbell, R. (2000). Investigating parental views of involvement in pre-school speech and language therapy. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 35, 391-405.