I was your typical new grad, fresh out of grad school and ready to conquer the world. I had an air of confidence because I had all the knowledge and tools I needed to be the best Speech Therapist I could be. Wow, was I wrong.
Sure, I had all the textbook knowledge to treat these speech and language disorders I spent the last 6 years of my life studying about. But there wasn’t a textbook that could have prepared me with the tools needed to have a successful parent-therapist relationship. In fact, even after 16 years, this is an area of learning that will be ongoing for me, and I am ok with that. The skills of a speech therapist go beyond the therapeutic technique. It involves compassion, understanding, the ability to listen and so much more.
You see, when a mom is sitting with their child during an evaluation and then looks at me and asks me what the future holds for her daughter, I scramble to think of the right words to say. The truth is, I just don’t have the answers. What I do know is that it will take a collaborative approach between myself, the family and anyone else involved with their child’s care, in order for there to be progress.
As parents, we stop at nothing to make sure our children are receiving the best of the best. We stay up late surfing the internet for knowledge, searching for the best practitioners and then questioning those practitioners’ methods. It is important for all those involved to remember we are in this together. We are all here for the benefit of that little girl sitting at my 3-foot-high table having difficulty communicating her basic wants and needs.
A successful parent-therapist relationship takes effort from both sides. Here are a few things that I find helpful in establishing the groundwork for a successful parent-therapist relationship:
Open and consistent communication
Ensure as parents, you are aware of and understand what goals your child is working on. In the school setting, consider keeping a communication log that gets sent back and forth to school each day. Meet regularly to discuss the child’s progress and make any necessary changes to the therapy plan.
Any small success is success and should be celebrated. The speech therapist can help parents with carryover of modifications and/or strategies at home to help foster the child’s abilities and opportunities for success.
Therapy is not black and white. As therapists and parents, we need to remember there are some days a strategy might work and the next day it might not. Be open to changes.
For more on this topic:
Check out this article written for my national association, the American Speech Language Hearing Association. It’s by Keri Vandongen and about her experience as a Speech Therapist communicating with parents