This is part 1 of a three-part blog series on the topic of parent education and training. Look for parts 2 and 3 coming up over the next two months.
Parent education and training is not only an important part of our job as SLPs it is an essential part of our job. Still, I’ve spoken to many SLPs over social media who still feel like they are lacking this particular skill for a number of reasons. For SLPs in the schools, their caseloads are so high and paperwork demands so daunting, they are left with little time to collaborate with school staff let alone contact parents on a regular basis. For private practitioners, speaking from experience, I think we are so focused on targeting the necessary skills and making gains with our clients, that we forget how important parent education can really be.
We know that parent involvement in general education is certainly beneficial. Children whose parents are involved in their school tend to have better academic performance and fewer behavior problems. It makes sense that parental involvement in speech services also would result in positive effects such as increased home practice of target skills and generalization of learned skills to the home environment. In fact, there are whole therapy models (i.e. DIR/Floortime, Hanen, etc.) that incorporate parent education and involvement as key factors in their models and have the research to back it up. The DIR/Floortime model’s portion of parent education and training has been tested and retested among various populations all resulting in positive effects, faster progress and improved generalization of social skills for children with ASD (see list of additional resources below).
So the question we need to ask ourselves is why we aren’t tapping into this wonderful resource and effectively educating and training parents of our clients? For myself, I can tell you that it took some time to become effective in this manner. Initially it seemed as if I was more of a teacher explaining the rationale for various techniques however I was missing some very important steps. Over time, I have improved upon my ability to educate and train parents and I will share with you my tips for effective parent training:
- Trial techniques: The first thing I usually do is trial various techniques to determine which techniques the child responds successfully.
- Explain rationale: Once I determine the most effect speech therapy techniques for the child (which we have to accept will change over time, maybe even at each session depending on the child’s ability and behavior), I will explain the rationale behind the techniques to the parent(s) present (either in my therapy room or in their homes when providing therapy).
- Model technique(s): Modeling the technique(s) immediately after explaining the rationale will demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique(s) and make more sense to the parent(s).
- Parent’s turn: Allowing the parent(s) to take turns trying to eliciting the communication skill via the use of determined techniques will give them much needed practice in the safety of the therapy session.
- Give Feedback: Giving feedback is necessary to training. It allows parents to feel successful with the skills they currently exhibit and provides additional ideas for the areas in which they are weaker.
- Follow up: I think it is so important to follow up with parents session to session to determine how well the techniques are working at home, how comfortable they feel using the techniques and if there are adjustments that need to be made for more effective use.
These are my basic tips for effective parent education and training. Next time I’ll be talking about how I realistically incorporate parent education and training in my speech therapy sessions.
- Casenhiser, D., Shanker, S., & Stieben, J. (2011). Learning Through Interaction in Children with Autism: Preliminary Data from a Social-Communication-Based Intervention. Autism, 17 (2), 220-241.
- Pajareya, K., & Nopmaneejumruslers, K. (2011). A pilot randomized controlled trial of DIR/Floortime™ parent training intervention for pre-school children with autistic spectrum disorders. Autism, 15 (5), 563-577. doi: DOI: 10.1177/1362361310386502
- Solomon, R., J. Necheles, C. Ferch, and D. Bruckman. “Pilot study of a parent training program for young children with autism: The P.L.A.Y. Project Home Consultation program.” Autism, 2007, Vol 11 ( 3) 205-224.
Maria Del Duca, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in southern Arizona. She owns a private practice, Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC, and has a blog under the same name. She is an affiliate of Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues. For more information, visit her blog or find her on Facebook.