Written by: Katie Yeh
As a speech-language pathologist, I am here to educate and support a child and his/her family to best help expand that child’s speech and language skills. But how can you, as a parent, get the MOST out of that time that is spent with your child’s speech pathologist? How can you best help your child through this process?
1. Get Educated
The world of special needs can be a confusing place. It quite literally comes with a whole new language: IEP, IFSP, OT, ST, PT, Special Day Class, least restrictive environment (LRE), goals, objectives, Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE), team meeting, receptive language, expressive language, speech, articulation, fine motor, gross motor, services, related services, etc.
The best thing you can do when you discover that your child has special needs, is to start to get educated. Read all you can and find out what resources are available in your area in terms of parent education. Talk to your local early intervention services or school district and see what kind of information they can provide. Find local support groups and read as much as you can.
That said, you also need to be very careful what you read online. You can find a lot of WONDERFUL information online, but you can also find a lot of misinformation. Here are some links and books I recommend to help get educated:
Articles specifically for speech and language:
Books specifically for speech and language for parents:
- Childhood Speech, Language, and Listening Problems
by Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi
Websites for special education and children with disabilities:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Site
- Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
- National Center on Response to Intervention
2. Be Involved
I cannot express how important it is to be involved in your child’s therapy! From the assessment, to the goals, to the sessions, you should be an integral part in your child’s therapy. Yes, the Speech Pathologist will be teaching your child things that require their unique expertise, but that doesn’t mean you can not be a big part of your child’s success. You are the parent and you are the one who spends the most time with your child and knows him/her best. Be involved!
3. Ask Questions
Do NOT be afraid to ask questions! The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask Speech pathologists are used to getting asked all KINDS of questions and we do NOT expect you to know the things we know. And….to be honest, we are human. Which means we sometimes forget that you may not know what some things mean. So make sure you remind us of this and ASK QUESTIONS! Ask as many as you need to, to feel like you understand what is happening. The more you understand about your child’s therapy, the better you can help him/her through this process.
4. Do the Homework
If your child’s SLP assigns homework, do your best to complete it. Typically, direct speech and language therapy is only an average of an hour a week, which by itself can definitely help your child make gains, but to make faster gains and see greater progress, it is essential to do the homework. Even just 5-10 minutes a day will help your child make SIGNIFICANT progress.
5. Be Your Child’s Advocate
I cannot stress this enough. Make sure to do the first three things I have mentioned above and then USE that information you have learned, be involved, and then ASK those questions and speak up. Be your child’s advocate, because you are the BEST person to advocate for your child. You know your child the best and spend the most time with him/her. So get educated, ask questions, and speak up!
6. Practice Practice Practice
I already mentioned how important doing the homework is. But don’t feel you have to stop there! Ask your child’s SLP how you can practice the skills your child is learning in therapy EVERY DAY within your everyday routines. This is the best way for your child to make steady and fast progress. Many speech and language skills can be addressed within normal, daily activities like meal times, reading, bath, driving in the car, etc. Ask your child’s SLP for tips on how to practice these skills all day, every day. Your SLP should have some specific tips for YOUR child to help you