This is part two in a three part series on stuttering and speech therapy. Part one was an article for parents on what to expect during first speech therapy sessions. You may want to check that out before you read on.
Does your child attend speech therapy for stuttering?
Are you thinking of enrolling your child in speech therapy?
In a new environment, it can often be confusing to figure out who does what. As a parent, you know your child best. The speech language pathologist (SLP) you work with will understand research on stuttering and what will most likely work for your child. Although roles may seem clear cut at first, in reality, they can be anything but.
Last post, I discussed what children will learn in first sessions in speech therapy. This week, we’ll learn the roles of each of the players and how to be involved in your child’s speech therapy sessions.
Speech Therapy: Roles
In speech therapy, there are roles and responsibilities for all involved. For example, a child’s responsibility would be to try their best in speech and do their speech homework. The SLP’s job is to design the sessions. The parent’s job includes communicating with the SLP about priorities for sessions as well as bringing children to speech on time. A further discussion of these roles is outlined below.
Roles – Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs)
Your SLP will design a speech therapy program for your child. Your SLP will also plan the specific objectives of specific sessions, as well as activities to target them. If you’d like to ask your SLP before starting therapy about her experience working with children who stutter, feel free to do so. You may want to ask how many clients your SLP has worked with in the past who stutter. In addition, you can ask if he/she has taken continuing education courses in this area. You may also want to ask and what sort of treatment strategies he/she uses to help children who stutter.
Remember your SLP has likely helped many children who stutter and has your child’s best interests at heart. If you have questions about what your SLP is doing and why, feel free to ask. Your SLP is responsible for designing a speech therapy program and tracking data. Whether your SLP works for a school or private clinic, he/she will need to document that the sessions are helping your child. That means taking data every session. When taking consistent data, your SLP can shift course when particular strategies aren’t working. In addition, your SLP can expand on the strategies that do help your child.
Roles – Client/Child
Children who are attending speech therapy sessions are expected to try their best. They may need to complete weekly speech therapy homework. Although everyone has bad days, ideally your child will have a positive attitude most days in speech therapy sessions.
Of course, your SLP will do what he/she can to ensure your child is having a good time. Speech therapy sessions are typically fun and engaging. This helps with motivation, And most children have a very positive attitude during sessions.
Roles – Parents
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to learn about stuttering yourself. I suggest starting with the stuttering foundation’s website.
I often suggest parents sit in on the first few sessions. That way, parents can see what happens in a typical session.
After those sessions, I suggest parents wait in the lobby during stuttering treatment. Again, keep in mind I’m talking about speech therapy for children ages 5 and older here. Preschool parents typically sit in for the entire session, since they work better that way.
If you have an older child, your child will need a chance to build rapport with your SLP. Also, children are oftentimes more honest and less self conscious when there are fewer people in the room. Having a parent in the room means there is an observer in the session. An observer is someone who is not participating but is watching the session. In most cases, having an observer in the room means slower progress (and some level of distraction) for children.
That said, it’s important that you as a parent know what is going on in each session. You will sit in on some sessions here and there. Also most sessions, there is time at the beginning or the end of the session to share what we’ve been working on. As a parent, you can learn what we discussed in speech therapy. You can also give your input. For example, you may share a sticky communication situation from the week. This may be a time when your child struggled with stuttering. This helps us determine situations to target. What is typically the most helpful feedback? Share what you noticed about your child’s communication that week.
Questions to Ask: Parents
Remember these are just general guidelines. Speech therapy for clients of different ages and needs looks very different. If you want to learn more about why your child is learning specific strategies, ask your SLP. Usually, open-ended questions are best for facilitating discussion. Some examples:
Why are we learning this skill?
How will this help improve my child’s communication skills?
How long will we work on this skill?
What can I do outside of speech therapy sessions to support my child?
Speech Therapy: Homework and Communication
Your SLP may give your child homework. These activities are an excellent way to practice speech therapy skills at home. This is an excellent way to get hands-on practice targeting skills from speech sessions.
In addition, it’s likely that at the end of each session your SLP will review what was covered in speech. Often, sessions focus on repeated practice of 1-2 skills. This makes it easy to give an overview of the activities after each session.
Speech Therapy: Expectation versus Reality
There is no cure for stuttering. Therefore your child may have “bumpy speech” from time to time. Even so, by attending speech therapy, children often gain strategies for smoother speech and an increased awareness of what works best for them to improve their communication.
It is difficult to go into a new situation and not have some expectations. In that case, if you have ideas about what speech therapy will look like, you might have to check those at the therapy room door. Remember speech therapy may not be what you imagined.
Leave space for the fact that it might be different that you imagined. But that could mean just as good (just a little different), or even better.
Take time to build rapport and trust with your SLP. In addition, choose an SLP who has experience working with children who stutter.
Your child’s cheer squad now consists of you (and your family) and your SLP. We are here to help. We really do care about working with your child to increase communication skills. Let’s work together, and let’s get to work!