Getting Parents More Involved in Their Child’s Speech Therapy During COVID-19 (and Beyond)
This is a guest post by Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP. I hope you find it helpful!
The steady spread of the coronavirus continues to disrupt many aspects of daily life – and speech therapy is no exception. Many of us who practice in school or clinic-based settings have quickly been adopting a “new normal,” and trying our hands at teletherapy.
As the President and Founder of Expressable, an online speech therapy practice, I’m obviously passionate about the power of teletherapy to expand accessibility, affordability, and convenience of delivering speech and language services to families.
Another big advantage of teletherapy and home-based therapy is the ability to more easily involve parents in their child’s speech and language development.
As schools have been closed across the country, parents are spending more time with their children at home than ever before. And while this can be rewarding (and taxing), it also presents a unique opportunity to educate parents on strategies and best practices to support their child through daily practice.
Why Parental Involvement is So Important
As you know, one of the most powerful tools children have to improve their speech and language problems is also the most accessible: their parents. There’s a growing clinical consensus that speech and language outcomes are better when parents and guardians are more involved in therapy. When parents play an essential role in their child’s intervention – as opposed to being passive observers – children make considerably more progress towards their speech and language therapy goals.
For some parents, reinforcing this point, and making sure it’s applied in the real world, takes some work on our end. It may be tempting for parents to fully rely on us to “fix” the problem. And I understand! Parents are living hectic lives, and when their child is diagnosed with a speech or language problem, they enter a new and unfamiliar world that can at times feel intimidating and overwhelming.
Below are some tips SLPs can use to engage parents and help them understand their unique role in their child’s therapy..
- No one Knows Their Child Better: We can never replace a parent’s intuitive connection with their child. They know your child’s personality and temperament best, This makes parents the ideal teacher! They can take our clinical recommendations and treatment plans and tailor them even further to their child’s preferred learning style.
- Every Moment is a Learning Moment: Make sure parents understand that speech and language therapy aren’t restricted to the classroom or clinic. It doesn’t even require a desk or chair. Parents should be reinforcing best practices consistently throughout the day – during bath-time, play-time, trips to the grocery store, the dinner table – you name it!
- Practice Makes Perfect: Whether a child is learning to pronounce a letter or sound, improve their voice characteristics, or comprehend simple sentences, teaching must be practiced and reinforced routinely. While we often only get an hour or two of a child’s time per week, parents have the advantage of spending ample time with their children – especially now!
- Speaking With Those That Matter: When children see a therapist, they gain valuable knowledge, but when they speak with their parents on a daily basis, they’re able to put that new knowledge into practice. This allows parents to be keenly aware of progress they’re making. Did they use a new vocabulary word? Or respond to a word instead of a gesture? This is progress we need to know about to further refine and tailor their treatment plan.
- Comforting Environment: Many children learn best in an environment they’re most familiar and comfortable. Working with your child at home, in an environment that’s familiar, is a stress-free way to test the new skills they’ve learned at therapy.
Arm Parents with At-Home Exercises
Parents often ask me for suggestions of fun games and at-home exercises to integrate speech therapy practice into their daily lives. Just as putting cheese on broccoli helps kids consume their vegetables (it works for me!), engaging activities can make the practice of repetition, corrections, and cues more enjoyable.
Fortunately, there are many valuable blogs and resources out there that I regularly turn to for help. Some of these include the Speech Therapy Ideas, Home Speech Home, and Mommy Speech Therapy.
I’ve also created an instructional YouTube video series with a range of videos that teach parents common techniques to improve their child’s language development. These videos provide helpful tips and strategies for making speech therapy a natural part of everyday life, and cover topics such as:
- Modeling Words
- Joint Attention
- Using Choices
- Reading to Toddlers
- Teaching Children How to Take Turns
Nurturing strong parent-therapist relationships is always important – but also takes on more relevance during these challenging times. This is a great opportunity to ease parents into their role as a key player and ensure that speech therapy practices become a daily practice.
About Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP:
Leanne calls Austin, Texas home but studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master’s in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. As many SLPs do, she found working with students, patients, and clients to be her favorite part, but dreaded the paperwork headache of insurance submissions and SO many denials. So with the combined brain power of her husband, Nick – who has experience in the healthcare tech industry – and two other teammates, the vision for Expressable was created. A telepractice company, Expressable envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access it – with all the superb convenience of therapy at home and without breaking the bank.