By Kendra Breedveld, MClSc, SLP (C), Reg. CASLPO
As the parent or caregiver of a child who requires speech and language therapy, you play a key role in your child’s success in therapy. It is important that you, your child, and the speech-language pathologist (SLP) work as a team to create a successful therapy experience so your child can reach his or her full potential. The role of the SLP and child may seem obvious; the SLP plans and executes therapy and the child participates. The role of the parent or caregiver isn’t always as clear. Here are some helpful ways for YOU to help your child make the most of his or her therapy experience:
1. Make sure your child attends appointments consistently
It may sound cliche, but consistency is key when it comes to receiving speech and language services. If your child is attending his or her therapy appointments as scheduled, there will be routine practice of communication skills. Routine, consistent therapy can have the following benefits:
- Faster progress toward therapy goals
- Prevention of regression of skills
- Shorter duration of therapy
Despite the sacrifices that may have to be made by both you and your child, in the long run, making attendance at speech and language therapy a priority will be of great benefit to your child. It may also save you frustration, time, and money.
2. Observe therapy sessions so you are privy to your child’s goals and progress (and participate when appropriate)
Sitting in on your child’s therapy sessions and paying attention to what he or she is working on with the SLP is a good way to help your child succeed. If you understand the goals, and ways that the SLP helps your child achieve those goals, you can encourage your child toward those goals during the days between therapy sessions. Let’s face it, you likely spend more time with your child than anyone else does and you know him or her best. Even though the SLP will be teaching your child things that require specific training, you can contribute to your child’s success by educating yourself.
3. Ask questions
There are no silly questions, except the ones that don’t get asked! Speech and language goals for your child may not be completely obvious to a person who isn’t trained as a SLP, so, ask questions! The SLP will be more than happy to explain how the activities they have chosen are contributing to building your child’s speech and language skills. As mentioned above, the more you understand your child’s therapy, the more you can help him or her through the process!
4. Share information
This tip goes back to the idea of working as a team. You spend lots of time with your child outside of the therapy room, and get to see the ways he or she succeeds, as well as the areas that need work. Sharing information with the SLP, such as stories about your child using therapy skills in everyday life or communication struggles they may be having in their daily activities, can help the SLP to make goals that are as relevant to your child’s life as possible. Another way you can share information is by sharing reports and information from other professionals in your child’s life, such as teachers, daycare providers, occupational therapists, psychologists and physicians etc. When information is shared among the entire team, it allows providers to collaborate and work toward common goals that benefit your child and help make them more successful.
5. Help your child practice at home
If your child’s SLP assigns homework, try to make time to complete it. We get that it might not be possible to sit down for 30 minutes everyday-life is busy (read: insanely hectic and crazy)-but making time for homework will help speed along your child’s success in therapy. If the SLP does not offer homework (some goals are not conducive to it), ask how you can practice the skills your child is learning in therapy EVERY DAY within your family’s daily routines. Many speech and language skills can be practiced during activities you do with your child every day, such as having a snack, taking a bath, reading a book, driving in the car, etc. The SLP can help you to figure out exactly which skills you can practice with your child in certain situations.