This year’s Better Hearing and Speech Month theme—”Early Intervention Counts”—made me wonder what more I could do to connect with moms and offer families early intervention services. I asked myself a key question:
Am I getting inside the mind of moms whose children I could help?
Throughout May, I communicated with moms everywhere I possibly could. I mean everywhere!
I spoke with moms I knew personally or professionally. I visited online speech-language groups, I peeked at comments on speech-language blogs popular with moms, and I learned what questions moms ask on forums and social media groups.
I noticed a strong trend that moms tend to ask other moms for advice about their children’s communication skills before going to a speech-language pathologist. I asked numerous moms: “Why would you reach out to other moms to share your concerns and/or ask questions about your child’s speech-language development over seeing a speech-language pathologist?”
Let’s look at the most common responses:
- It’s faster and convenient to ask other moms their opinion or a question, especially online and during evenings.
- It takes commitment to make a potentially unnecessary appointment with an SLP plus extra commitment for follow-up appointments.
- I know and trust moms but I don’t know any SLPs.
- Other trustworthy moms have a wealth of knowledge, especially if they have been through the process with an SLP. These moms give you an idea of what warrants a visit to a professional.
- Fellow moms share my perspective. They show compassion and understand what I’m going through with my child.
- I’m not intimidated by “parent friendly” messages that don’t use confusing or technical jargon.
- Advice from other moms comes free.
- I’m nervous an SLP will tell me my child needs help or diagnose my child with a disorder.
Based on responses, I’m taking six steps to improve my communication approach, the language I use and how I connect with parents:
- I’m communicating with moms on my own social media sites and within online groups and forums.
- I’m being vulnerable by sharing relatable facts about myself personally and my core values for my business.
- I’m using parent-friendly language and avoiding acronyms and negative terms, such as “disorder,” during our conversations.
- I’m asking moms more questions about their perceived needs and concerns for their child so I have more opportunities to listen actively and empathize about what they are going through.
- I’m focusing on and talking about children’s strengths as a way to build a rapport with parents.
- I’m also acknowledging my appreciation to parents for taking the time and effort to access my services.
If you wonder what types of questions parents ask, here are three valuable online resources:
- Search for speech-language support groups for moms and moms on Facebook
Boost the value you get from online communities by reading through the group descriptions, rules, policies and other posts before posting in the group. Contact the group administrator(s) before posting for their best tips on joining.
What have you learned from listening to parents? Please share in the comments!
Keri Vandongen, aka “Speech Keri,” provides speech-language services for families with young children through her private practice in Alberta, Canada. She also offers online video training and techniques to enhance speech-language practice and carryover. Keri@myspeechparty.com