The Role of Parents in Language Intervention
By Sarah Bartlett, Speech Pathologist at EarlyEd.
I often look back at the early days in my career and remember how my job as a Speech Pathologist was based on weekly appointments. Parents would sit to the side of the clinic room and watch as I worked with their child. They would listen to my suggestions for what I thought should be done at home.
I also remember in my first year of work, a mother opening up to me about her concerns and feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start in supporting her child’s speech development outside of the one hour weekly therapy sessions. She admitted that she lacked the time to sit and play in the way we did in our therapy sessions when at home. As well, she found that her child acted differently when they played at home. This mother recognised that she needed to be more empowered in her child’s everyday life.
Now, with over 20 years experience working as a Speech Pathologist, I can see how far we have come in recognising the research and evidence about the vital role that parents play in their child’s speech development. As a profession we have developed excellent approaches and tools that actively support parents to take on the primary role in supporting the social, language and literacy skills of their own child. We see parents as the essential and best tool for helping their child. This approach looks quite different to the traditional therapy sessions I remember.
The benefits of parent implemented intervention
Because some parents feel they are not the ‘expert’, they can be apprehensive about taking on the ‘therapist’ role in the home setting. This feeling can be especially felt when a child is a reluctant communicator, difficult to engage or with sharing attention, or presenting with a significant delay in language.
While you may not be the professional ‘expert’ in language development, as a parent, you are the ‘expert’ for your child. There is very clear evidence that parents play the most important and influential role in your child’s speech therapy and are a child’s best teacher.
- You know your child best
- You are a constant in your child’s everyday life
- You are there for the really meaningful parts of the daily routine
- You spend more time talking to and interacting with your child than a therapist ever can
Parents tune in and adjust the therapy to match with how the child is learning and can help learning occur where and when it matters. They bring it alive and therefore increase the rate and depth of learning that occurs. Compare learning to talk with how we learn to drive. You can’t learn to drive a car by practicing off road. You need to be out on the road in real situations before it makes sense and becomes automatic.
For most children, seeing a Speech Pathologist once per week isn’t enough to develop language skills. If your child’s therapist helps you to learn how to provide Parent-Implemented Intervention, your child can continue to benefit in their everyday life. Research has shown that Parent Implemented programs like the Hanen® programs are successful at:
- Helping parents extend speech therapy into everyday routines and play
- Ensuring therapy continues in the child’s natural environment by their most motivated partner – their parent!
- Ensuring parents become confident at sharing and setting their child’s ongoing goals and working out what strategies will work to achieve these goals.
Hanen® speech language programs at EarlyEd
If your child is experiencing a communication difficulty, EarlyEd offers 12 week intensive Hanen® specialized speech language programs in three areas: Language Delays (It Takes Two To Talk), Autism Spectrum Disorder / Social Communication Disorder (More Than Words), and Later Development or Higher Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder/ Social Communication Disorder (TalkAbility).
Led by trained Speech Pathologists, each program is unique in that they provide parent-friendly, well researched, long-term approaches and resources as well as individualised tools for parents to use in their everyday lives to support their child’s communication goals. All programs can be funded using NDIS, Medicare, health funds, HCWA and Better Start or private funding. Find out more or contact us to register your interest for upcoming courses.
Written By Sarah Bartlett, Speech Pathologist at EarlyEd
Sarah is a paediatric speech pathologist first trained in Hanen® 20 years ago. She has since run numerous Hanen® programs including More Than Words, It Takes Two To Talk & TalkAbility for parents. In addition she has worked supporting families of children with disability in the community, schools and homes, whilst also continuing research in this field.
To read more on our available Hanen® programs visit here.