The other day I was talking to a colleague and he was emphasizing the need for a certain patient to receive treatment at least four or five times per week at 60 minutes per session. I could see his point, in a way. The patient is 3 years old and doesn’t have a functional communication system.
The patient used around three words and the parents wanted their child to start preschool in the fall. Now, of course this child needs services, but had already been in treatment for more than a year. Let’s do the math. The patient had sessions twice a week for 18 months. How many sessions is that? I’ll save you the trouble. It comes out to 156 sessions.
If I went to 156:
- personal training sessions, then I better be all muscle.
- cooking lessons, then I should cook like a master chef.
- college courses, I could earn at least two degrees, maybe three.
- coached basketball practices, I might finally accomplish my life-long goal of being an NBA player.
- finally, as a parent, if I attended 156 speech-language sessions, I hope I learned enough to help my child work on the concepts at home.
As speech-language pathologists, we’re experts in speech and language development. Parents however, are experts on their child. We see a child for 30 minutes one or maybe two times a week. Parents are with the child every day. So, I suggest we take advantage of this time and teach the parent simple ways to help their child every day.
These four approaches work best for me:
- Talk with parents about what goals will best benefit them, their child and their family.
- Get parents involved by asking them to participate or complete the same activity as their child, so they can replicate similar activities at home.
- Give parents specific modifications to session activities and exercises, so they can work on goals throughout the week. Talk about the targeted concepts for those goals and the types of cues they can use to help their child. Again, help them practice these during sessions so they really know it!
- During vacations, school changes or other gaps in sessions, come up with a plan to make sure the work you’re doing with the child continues.
Our main professional goal focuses on improving the speech and language development of a client. But spending time involving and educating parents or other caregivers increases the opportunities a client has to make progress. Understandably, each child progresses at different rates and even with parental assistance, a child might not progress as rapidly as everyone wants or thinks they should.
Parents taking a larger role in the speech-language intervention process, however, generates other benefits. Parents get an added connection to their child, they feel like they can do something to help their child, and getting parents or other family members involved usually allows the child to make faster improvement.
How do you include parents in your treatment plan and how does their involvement affect results? Share your best tips and success stories in the comment section below.
Jonathan Suarez, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at Cook Children’s pediatric hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. firstname.lastname@example.org