Parents contribute a great deal to their children’s language development and improvement. Unfortunately, many parents are reluctant to help because they fear they lack the knowledge, expertise, time, and skills necessary to provide meaningful assistance.
To complicate matters, speech-language pathologists may have limited opportunities to compile and share recommendations due to their own workload and caseload constraints. It may also be difficult for many parents to find time to help in their busy schedules to work with their child on typical speech-language “homework” assignments. Additionally, SLPs may feel that they don’t have the bandwidth to build relationships with parents and/or to create parent-oriented resources.
When parents acquire the knowledge and tools they need, they can confidently help their child. I have had the good fortune to observe hundreds of parents successfully improving the effectiveness of speech-language interventions by partnering with their child’s SLP.
The Rise of Virtual School-Based Speech-Language Therapy
The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with most onsite speech-language service delivery and education instruction. But SLPs and educators rose to the occasion and have been diligent in their efforts to find new avenues for service delivery.
In the past year, many SLPs began to deliver services virtually into children’s homes. Overnight, parents had to take on new roles and responsibilities. On a positive note, many became more informed about their child’s impairments and needs and actively engaged in their child’s therapy and education. Others have been overwhelmed by their own life circumstances and work challenges.
Many of my SLP and educator colleagues have shared with me joyful stories of providing services virtually. They feel the format provides them with unique opportunities to observe children in their home environment, gain new insights into students’ challenges and abilities, and expand their interactions with parents. Consequently, opportunities to foster partnerships with parents have blossomed! From my perspective, the creative solutions required to navigate this situation have offered SLPs a chance to form partnerships with parents to reduce their fears, increase their knowledge, and build their skills.
The Benefits of Working with Parents
Creating effective home programs and resources for parents may seem like just another task to add to an already busy schedule. But if the right circumstances are created through parent information and skill building, speech-language intervention can be more effective.
These practical recommendations can help you achieve the task of fostering meaningful partnerships with parents—with minimal stress. I recommend focusing your efforts on three aspects:
- Forging partnerships and suggesting home-based activities
- Identifying specific speech-language skills
- Describing and sharing therapy techniques parents can use
Select Appropriate Family-Based Activities
Encourage parents to communicate with their children and interact with them in motivating and interesting ways. Recommend practical, understandable, easy-to-complete activities that prompt parent-child interaction and joint participation. Think in terms of recommending fun activities that can be implemented in the home or community, and select activities that can be built into the family and home daily routine.
Here are some examples of family and home-oriented activities I have recommended:
- Before bed, remember five things you did today.
- Measure your family members’ arms. Whose are the longest? Shortest?
- Describe the clothes in your closet, including names, colors, designs, pictures, and fabrics.
- Tell three action steps for making chocolate milk.
- Hide a toy. Give hints to help your friend find it.
Build Communication Skills
Focus your work with the student and parents on building communication skills that are taught within the school language arts curriculum, such as:
- Expanding vocabulary
- Formulating questions
- Describing experiences
- Understanding basic concepts
- Giving and following directions
Provide Clear Instruction for Interventions
Discuss and demonstrate intervention techniques you employ in therapy with the child. Explain each technique in simple and understandable terms.
Some of the techniques that I like to recommend are:
- Describe steps to complete an action.
- Name and describe objects.
- Ask and answer questions.
- Read and listen to stories.
- Expand on the child’s language attempts.
Finally, take a moment to appreciate the partnerships you are developing with the parents of the children you serve!
The methods described above will facilitate efficient and effective ways to build relationships and encourage practice of speech and language skills. Instead of merely asking children to repeat meaningless lists of words or sentences, engage students in fun, interactive, and memorable experiences.
Learn more about partnering with parents as well as selecting appropriate techniques in my MedBridge courses: