4 Things SLPs Should Always Say!


We talk a lot, so there are some things that SLPs should be careful to say! I’m happy to be part of The Frenzied SLPs in this linky to offer some advice!
In my ‘SLPs should Never Say’ post, I discussed some phrases that should not be said when addressing anxious parents’ concerns about their newly diagnosed child. Here’s some ideas about what to say instead.

When receiving an initial diagnosis on their speech/language delayed child, parents are very naturally concerned and want to have a picture of what is involved. Frequently, they will ask questions to find out what their child is capable of achieving and how long it will take.

Tip 1: Tell parents that every child progresses at their own rate, so it is not possible to say when their child will achieve a milestone or catch up to their peers. Commend them for getting the help their child needs, since that is a hard step to take, and assure them that you will work with them to help their child achieve the most that they are capable of learning.

Our field is full of professional jargon that we went to school for many years to be able to understand and use. In the school environment, however, most of our communication is with parents and educators who don’t have this background knowledge.

Tip 2: Don’t use specialized terms in meetings with educators and parents if they won’t understand them!

When you are discussing test results with parents of older students who are severely disordered and have been in therapy for a while, there is no need slam home how disordered their child is. By this point in time, parents have come to realize the size of the problem on their own, to whatever extent they are capable of facing it at the time.  If their viewpoint seems somewhat unrealistic to you, remember it is our job to present the student’s current skills as we see it, not to convince parents of their ‘erroneous’ viewpoint. Perhaps this hopeful attitude or the unrealistic expectations are what is enabling the parents to get up every day and keep trying!

Tip 3: Provide standard scores or percentile rankings, which show a comparison with their same age peers in a much more realistic manner. Focus your commentary with parents on the functional language skills that are necessary for their child to achieve the highest level of independent functioning they have the capability to achieve. Share specific accomplishments that have moved them closer to that goal and what skills still need to be worked on. Sooner or later, parents with what we consider to have ‘unrealistic’ expectations will be faced with what their child has actually accomplished. As well, sometimes having higher expectations can actually help a student achieve a higher level of skill!

It is all too easy to start to compare what a student is like in a structured academic day with professional staff to the stories the parent shares of daily life, to the parents’ detriment. It is not easy to raise any child, with special needs just complicating it more. Also, it isn’t possible to structure home environments  like a planned school day. Even if parents had the training, the environment is different, the students are tired at the end of the day and probably not at their best, there usually aren’t enough hands to go around and there is too much to get done at the end of a school day.

Tip 4: Have some tips in mind that you would like to be able to share, but start your discussion by finding out from the parents where the communicative difficulties arise at home. Then, tailor your tips so that they will meet the parents’ needs and accomplish your goals in an activity the parent is already doing. Instead of ‘should’, use words like this:
Maybe it would help if…
Have you ever tried…
Do you think it would be possible to… while you are already…..?

Be sure to let the parents know, as well, what you can do with their child  in the following days of therapy that could help improve the situation at home!

Communication is a two way street! I hope my suggestions help you to keep the lines of communication open when you have discussions with parents. For more super ideas, be sure to check in with the rest of The Frenzied SLPs.
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