If you are considering engaging a speech pathologist to assist your child, or if you have recently started intervention, chances are you are thinking ‘what is my role in my child’s therapy?’ Maybe you are thinking that the speech pathologist will just sit with your child and show them flashcards. Or perhaps you are anxious about your level of involvement.
If you are a parent who is familiar with the process, you may have experienced the challenge of having to sit in a waiting room, anxiously anticipating the return of your child from their speech therapy session. Was the session a success? Did your child achieve the desired outcomes? What do they need to work on? And even though you may be given a brief update about what has gone on inside the room, you are never quite sure of the answers to these questions, and most importantly, what you can do to further their development.
Even if you can sit-in on your child’s session, it can be hard to gain a full understanding of the practices taking place. Without being told or educated about their long-term benefit in building your child’s communication skills, you may feel confused about how these practices can help and be adapted at home.
All these feelings are perfectly normal, but the good news is that there has been a shift in the relationship between speech pathologist and parent. Instead of being a mere observer of the speech therapy sessions or even an outsider, at our Newcastle speech pathology practice you are encouraged to be an integral part of your child’s intervention. Why do we do this? Because your insight and involvement is crucial to the success of the speech therapy process.
The Changing Roles of Speech Pathologists and Parents
Lauren Lowry (on behalf of the Hanen Centre) provides a summary about the importance of parent involvement in child intervention, and specifically discusses this shift in roles being based upon the following:
- Your child learns to communicate during everyday activities and conversations with the important people in their lives – you
- You have many more opportunities to interact with your child in meaningful everyday situations than your speech pathologist does
- You know your child the best and are their first teacher
By implementing speech pathology services that are anchored in coaching and empowering you to help your child, we can teach you to use specific language-building strategies during everyday activities. Now you might be wondering, how can I, someone who is not a trained speech pathologist, help my child develop communication skills? The answer is simple. With the idea of ‘therapy’ happening whenever parent and child are together, you can utilise the strategies we teach you to help your child learn while communicating about the things that are most interesting, familiar and important to them. We will also utilise your unique knowledge of your child, including how they communicate at home and with others, to help inform assessment results and guide the ongoing therapy sessions.
The Ongoing Success of Parent Involvement
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.
By employing what is known as ‘parent-implemented intervention’, we can ensure that speech therapy:
- is extended and incorporated into every part of your child’s day
- involves communication between child and parent, not child and speech pathologist
- involves play and daily activities (such as mealtime, bath time and bed time) that are familiar and meaningful to the child, instead of unfamiliar clinic-based activities
- can happen on an ongoing basis in comfortable surroundings
- is motivating and fun for your child
At the end of the day it is about successfully achieving the desired outcomes. Our experienced and trained speech pathologists won’t just give you ‘homework’ to help your child achieve these results. We will coach you on how to include targets within your family routine. As an ‘engaged’ participant in your child’s therapy sessions, you will have an opportunity to ‘do’ your child’s therapy with our support and guidance.
When considering that for change to occur in your child’s speech system, speech targets need to be produced 120 times during a single practice session and on most days of the week, parent-implemented intervention or at-home therapy is essential. Could you imagine the expense otherwise? To achieve the desired result, you would need to attend speech pathology appointments nearly daily. Obviously not a solution we advise, which is why we choose to adopt the ‘parent-implemented intervention’ approach. It is through this process that we become your coach and can guide your involvement, help you to become the key person delivering the therapy, encourage the frequency of the learned practices, and ultimately produce better results.
I know that when it comes to my children, I am constantly on the search for information on what I can do to help them achieve and grow. Maybe it is because I am speech pathologist and evidence based care is part of my every day. But I have no doubt that if your child needs therapy, you too would want the right information and knowledge to help further develop their skills and confidence in the comfort of their own home.
As the name suggests, A Growing Understanding offers services that are centered around growing the understanding of not only children, but for those who care for and support them – you. As your child grows and develops during their speech therapy sessions, we will support you and help you develop the right skills to assist them at home.