Traditional Speech Therapy Roles

It has been an accepted fact for years that speech therapy follows this script.  The mother brings her child to the speech-pathologist at the clinic to be evaluated.  After the assessment, if the child is prescribed for speech therapy, the mother brings the child back to the clinic to begin a series of sessions with the SLP.

It was never a question that the SLP would provide the speech therapy.  After all, the SLP has the education, training, and experience to implement the proven strategies and techniques to improve the child’s communication. The parent would be given the option to observe the session and then given “homework” to do with the child to reinforce what was covered in the session.

However as of late, the roles of the parent and the SLP are beginning to change.  Parents are moving from a more passive into a more active role.  No longer merely “observers” and “reinforcers,” parents have become an integral part of the speech therapy itself.

Reasons for the Shift in Speech Therapy Roles

  1. Kids learn best to communicate when involved in everyday activities with the most important people in their lives- their parents
  2. Kids have many more opportunities to interact with parents than with a therapist
  3. Kids learn best from their natural teachers, those who know them best- their parents

Benefits of the Parent’s New Role

  1. Speech therapy reaches into every part of the child’s day
  2. Instead of being an obligation, the therapy is motivating and fun
  3. The therapy is integrated into play and daily activities that are familiar and meaningful (such as mealtime, bathtime, and bedtime)
  4. Occurs in comfortable surroundings and enjoys consistency

“Parent-Implemented Intervention”

An essential aspect of the beauty of this approach is its natural simplicity.  Essentially the SLP teaches the parent strategies and techniques to use in everyday day communications with her child.  Since these techniques are woven into the daily interactions, the therapy becomes part and parcel of what is natural and familiar instead of being “clinical”. The name for this approach is “parent-implemented intervention”.

A Review of “Parent-Implemented Intervention”

A recent study of “Parent-Implemented Intervention” conducted by two researchers from Vanderbilt University, Megan Roberts, and Ann Kaiser found that:

  1. Parents were successful in learning the requisite strategies taught by the SLPs
  2. Parents positively impacted their child’s communication development.
  3. Both verbal and nonverbal communication improved (understanding, vocabulary, and frequency of communication).
  4. Parents were just as effective at helping their child as SLPs in delivering their “speech therapy”, and in some cases even more effective.

The Bottom Line Is that Parents Make a Big Difference!

As the Roberts and Kaiser Review shows, programs that empower parents to work directly with their children significantly improve their children’s speech-language skills. These programs are not designed to replace ongoing speech therapy for those children who need it. But it is hard to deny what a jump start parents can give their children by becoming actively involved.