Monday, February 4, 2008

Parents, This Is Important

If you take your child to a Speech and Language Pathologist (Speech Therapist), go in to the therapy session and participate and learn how to do anything that seems to help your child communicate better.

Not all therapists want parents in the room but if you have a therapist who does not let you participate at least part of the time--get a new therapist. The speech therapist might say
Your child does better when you are not in the room.

To this you reply, Yes, but I am in the room most the other hours of the week and all the years of this child's life--so even if it is hard with me in the room, I need to know how to communicate with this child of mine and this child of mine needs to know how to communicate with me. I am ready to learn.

Speech Therapist still not on board? Ask for the sessions to be video taped so you can watch them. Bring your own video camera and tapes. Then at least you can watch the tapes and ask relevant questions.

You should know that it is Best Practice for therapists to involve parents in treatment to the extent that parents would like to be involved. See this Best Practice Statement.

Many therapists will be thrilled to have you come in and learn.

Why is this an important idea?
  1. Communication involves at least two people and you are an important communication partner for your child. If you get better at communicating with your child, he or she has a lifetime of better companionship.
  2. It is easier for you to learn new communication skills than it is for your child to learn new communication skills and the skills you learn will help him or her learn all week.
  3. If your child does learn new communication skills in therapy, he or she will have someone to practice the new skills with right away, but if you are not there, you will not understand what he or she just learned and will not know how to support that new learning.
  4. If you are there with the therapist, you can tell him or her what communication problems or successes your child has in real life--so therapy can be about real communication problems. e.g. You can say, My mother calls every Sunday but my child does not know what to say to her. The speech therapist can then help you solve a real communication problem as opposed to theoretical communication problem which may or may not be important to you or your child.
  5. Your therapist may need information from you in order to be successful communicating with your child in therapy. e.g. Your therapist might hear your child say hedida and you may be able to translate that into Heh! Gimme that!
  6. Not all therapists have good rapport with all children--if you see that it is not going well, week after week, you can get your child out of an uncomfortable and unproductive relationship. Or perhaps the sessions are just not productive anymore, even though they were great for a long while. You can say Thank-you for trying and then put that hour of your own and your child's time to better use.
  7. If you know the real goals and objectives of each session--as opposed to the incomprehensible goals and objectives that therapists tend to write for insurance companies or school auditors, you can tell if therapy is helping your child learn to communicate--or not.
  8. Therapists work harder or at least smarter when parents are in the room and that is just a fact of life, not a critique of the therapist. Ask a few good questions about why your therapist is choosing this activity versus that and this objective versus that and you can raise the level of therapy to brilliant! I personally cannot believe how much better I am with an actively involved family--and I love this feeling of doing my job well.
  9. Therapist often feel overwhelmed by the size of the teaching task and are very much encouraged by having parents carry learning objectives into the week so that progress is faster. I know that when I finally wrapped my mind around the size of the communication challenge, I knew I could only scratch the surface unless I had some help and so that was when I started calling on parents to help me teach communication skills.
  10. Two heads and two hearts are better than one when it comes to solving the real communication challenges that confront both parents and children with autism.
Communication is complicated but after years of working with parents, I can assure you that parents can and do learn enough about communication to help their child. When a parent is involved and working at communication, the child learns much faster and keeps learning long after the speech therapist is gone.


Niksmom said...

Tahira, I think this is one of the most important posts I read this morning. I'd like to share it over on my blog if I may?

Tahirih said...

Of course you can. I am also going to add a couple more bullet points. Tahirih

Jessica said...

I think that is so important too. I really don't see how a therapist can make any real progress without the parent carrying it into the week. I mean it's 30 min-1 hour out of the whole week. At my son's school they have also switched from a model of pulling out kids as much and instead they do a lot of speech therapy in the classroom and show the teachers what to do when they aren't there.