In the early days of my speech pathology career, there were many times I was faced with an overwhelming sense that parents and carers needed to be more empowered in their child’s speech and language development journey. Rather than just sitting back and being mere observers of their child’s therapy sessions, the parents I worked with needed to be guided through the process just as their child was.
When it came time to establish my own practice, I knew that the focus had to be on growing the understanding of not just children, but their entire family. This approach is now backed with significant research that indicates family involvement, particularly parents, is vital when it comes to reaching the goals associated with their child’s speech development. It is because of this that we ensure our services are anchored in the three ‘E’s; Engagement, Encouragement and Empowerment. In this article, I will explain how we can help you feel empowered when it comes to supporting your child in a variety of contexts.
Engagement is a key component to a child’s ability to learn. Whether we are in the clinic, a classroom or a home environment, the child needs to be engaged with what we are doing so we can achieve the best results. The same goes for the parents.
When your child is in a therapy session with us, we ensure we listen to their needs, are adaptive to any given situation, utilise resources that are based on your child’s interests, and introduce fun. The combination of these things enables us to deliver a focused service, where your child is happy and willing to learn. This in turn, elicits an active response from you as the parent, enabling greater engagement between yourself, the speech pathologist and your child. It is through this engagement that we can involve you in the activities, and provide you with a hands-on experience that can be relayed in other contexts – helping your child to continue their journey outside of the therapy session.
In addition to the above we also know that engagement means listening. To establish successful engagement throughout your child’s speech development journey, we must first take the time to listen. Listening enables us to gain a better understanding of your family’s priorities when it comes to speech therapy. By validating and making sure your concerns are incorporated into the therapy sessions, we can ensure you and your family feel heard, understood and involved in the process.
To maintain engagement throughout any therapy session, we must ensure the child is motivated. Motivation often comes from encouragement. If a child feels they can achieve, they are more likely to give whatever it is a try. And we know that adults respond in a similar way. If you feel like you have the right knowledge, the right support, and are heading in the right direction, you too will feel more confident and willing to give it a go.
Navigating the path of speech, language and feeding difficulties can be a daunting prospect for many families. It is our job, as speech pathologists, to guide you through the process, ensure you feel involved and are encouraged with your efforts at home. By providing you with positive feedback, a variety of resources and tools, you will become an engaged participant in your child’s therapy. After all, it is your involvement that augments the best results for your child.
Empowerment is defined as the process of becoming stronger and more confident, particularly in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. As a parent, feeling as though you have the strength and confidence to do whatever is necessary for your child is essential when it comes to ensuring their path of growth. For children with language and communication difficulties, the voice of their parents is incredibly important. You are the one who speaks on their behalf, stands up for what they need and encourages inclusion. But without the right support, resources and skills, you may not have the confidence to do this.
Empowerment is at the centre of what we do, as without it, your child will not have the confidence to tackle the challenges that may lay ahead for them, and you will not have the strength and skills to support them. How do we do empower your journey? By providing essential opportunities for you to grow:
Parent coaching forms part of every therapy session, and ensure you have the skills to incorporate speech and language development tasks into your child’s every day routine.
Workshops and Webinars
Face to face and online workshops form part of our service offering. These workshops provide you with a unique opportunity to learn specific skills that are related to your child’s speech and language development journey.
Connecting with other families that are in a similar situation can provide you with confidence in knowing that you are not on this journey alone.
Resources and Support
For many parents, talking with teachers, or other professionals may be challenging. With the right resources and support, you can feel more confident when it comes to establishing an environment your child will thrive in. One such resource is this great one-pager that details your child’s needs, but ensures the positives are front and centre. We also work with families to develop whatever is required when dealing with your child’s school, other professionals, or perhaps the NDIS.
Having the right tools, skills, support and resources at your fingertips ensures empowerment, and a clearer path forward for your family.
The Bonus E’s – Efficiency and Effectiveness
When we combine engagement, encouragement and empowerment, we can provide an efficient and effective service – the bonus E’s. By ensuring you have the skills and confidence to support your child across a variety of contexts, including the delivery of therapy at home, we can help you and your child achieve better results in less time, and less time means less dollars.
In an article we published previously about the importance of parent involvement in speech therapy, we discussed the concept of lasting impressions:
“Think for a moment about walking across a patch of grass. Your footprints will leave an impression, but only for a second. It isn’t until you have established an ongoing routine of walking backwards and forwards across the same patch of grass, that you will start to see a lasting impression of the path you have taken. This idea is pertinent to speech therapy. When you attend a therapy session once a week or once a fortnight, the ‘impression’ or what was learnt will start to fade in between sessions. But if what is learnt in the speech therapy session is continued at home and during everyday activities, the ‘impression’ will become ingrained, a part of your child’s everyday, and you will see their communication skills grow.”
We know that for change to occur in your child’s speech system, parent-implemented intervention or at-home therapy is essential. By adopting the ‘parent-implemented intervention’ approach, that includes parent coaching, support and empowerment, we can encourage your involvement, help you to become the key person delivering the therapy, encourage the frequency of the learned practices, and ultimately produce better results.
At the end of the day, what we do as speech pathologists is about successfully achieving the desired outcomes. This can’t happen by simply giving you ‘homework’ to help your child achieve these results. By coaching and supporting you, you can become an engaged participant in your child’s therapy, and feel empowered to nurture their growth in a variety of contexts.