Home Programming and The Parent’s Role in Therapy: My Dog Ate My Homework

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” -George Santayana

We have all (hopefully) seen the magical powers of home follow-through. The greatest gift a child can have is a dedicated parent who is willing to work equally hard toward their goals. I am in perpetual awe of some of my families who report back regarding their home practice. They accomplish such amazing things together, making me one VERY happy SLP.

The research is clear- practice 10 minutes a day is more effective than a cram session once a week. Practice in the home is essential and I am lucky to have some overachieving families who continually amaze me!

But not all families seem as dedicated. Do they love their children? I believe the answer to that is a resounding YESSSSSS. Infinite boatloads of love. And yet…. each week…. underwhelming amounts of follow-through. I get it. Life is crazy busy and the reasons are endless- busy schedule, illness, school projects…. the classic “dog ate my homework” situation.

 

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Photo Credit: Mike Burke via unsplash.com

 

Well…. bummer. But never fear! We should always be thinking about what we (as in speech therapists) can do better. It does that child no good for me to shake my head and accept the family may not practice at home. Nine times out of ten, it boils down to ed-u-cation and talking it out with the parent- explaining why. I mean, we have a masters degree in communication. Hear that? We are MASTER COMMUNICATORS. So let’s communicate!
Without further ado… and in classic, cheesy SLP fashion… allow me to introduce you to my “parent education wh questions”. Because it’s not reliable information without a gimmick:

WHERE THE GOALS ARE COMING FROM

There are some basic concepts we are responsible for teaching parents. For example:

*the difference between speech and language*

*the difference between receptive and expressive language*

*the factors that go into a feeding disorder: medical management v. oral motor difficulties v. sensory aversions v. behavioral issues*

*what fluency is and is not*

*what exactly is going on with that kiddo’s voice*

These are key concept that SLPs often take for granted. Many parents are not aware of the differences- and why should they be? It’s no their job to nerd out over this stuff.
It can be difficult to drop the jargon and explain exactly what is going on with a child’s deficits. But these terms provide the framework for future conversations. Bonus- it reassures the parent that they are in the right place.

Be sure to keep it simple, keep to the basics, and open things up for questions. This sort of information can be overwhelming and confusing for parents. But the “P” in our title stands for “patience,” right? Sweet Listeners of Patience? No? Okay, I’ll keep working on it.

I digress… Parents often amaze me with what they retain and what questions they think to ask. I sometimes joke that by the time my kiddos graduate from speech, their parents will be qualified to be SLPs themselves. The more they understand the basics, the better they can not only help their child at home- but contribute to the therapeutic process.

WHAT WE’RE DOING AND WHY

Sure it looks like play play play…. but explaining what we’re looking and listening for during therapy can go a long way to help a parent understand what to do at home.
Teach parents how to scaffold! Teach them the cueing hierarchy with the help of my freebie!


Teach them the steps we are taking to achieve our “big picture” goal. Here are some examples:

Yes, I’m having your child repeat “b” over and over to request a ball. But why?

  1. Requesting is one of the first reasons humans use communication.
  2. We’re are teaching them the reciprocal, back-and-forth nature of communication.
  3. Requesting is highly motivating- it teaches children that intentional vocalizations get them the cool stuff they want.
  4. We’re starting with a “b” because it’s one of the easiest phonemes. The further forward in the mouth, the easier the sound. This is true for a few reasons- it requires less tongue/jaw dissociation, we can see it easier, it happens to be the first letter of “ball” and kids LOVE balls. (ball pop, anyone?)

That is just one example of a recent conversation I had during a therapy session. But talk your parents through it! It was a tough habit for me to get into and it’s one I have to continually work on.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE

This one depends a little- but if it’s in the home, it ultimately falls on the parents’ shoulders. Once my kids get to be around 7 or 8- I start to hold them accountable as well.

This one is short. 😉

WHEN AND HOW TO PRACTICE

Me: “How was your practice?”
Kid: “Oh it was good!”
Me: “Yeah? That’s great! When did you do it?”
Kid: “We practiced in the car on the way here!”

hahaha- that is not what I meant.
I realize that families are busy and they cannot practice speech all day every day at home (even though that would be awesome). So give your families some quantities to work with. 10 minutes a day, 4 days this week… or whatever. When is measurable, it seems more manageable.

 

 

 

…THE END! Parent education is truly a topic than spans the entire scope of our practice- and this post was long enough. As always, I’d love love love to hear your stories and thoughts!

 

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