Parent Involvement in Speech Therapy

Yes, we all know that parent and family involvement in speech therapy has been shown to improve therapeutic outcomes. Accomplishing successful family involvement in therapy can be challenging though. We’ll share some ideas in this post to help you effectively build relationships with the families you work with. These ideas are based on:

  • Research articles
  • The experiences of the authors as speech language pathologists who have worked in early childhood settings, schools, clinics, and hospitals
  • The perspectives of parents of children with disabilities

Considerations Surrounding Diversity

The clients we serve come from families with a wide range of cultures, languages, experiences, religious beliefs, and so on. Sometimes this diversity can make the process of building relationships with families more challenging simply because of a lack of understanding or awareness of these cultural differences. Becoming aware of the differences that exist across cultures can help us to reduce communication breakdowns and uncomfortable situations.

Cultural Differences

Here are some cultural differences that we should consider when working with families in a therapeutic setting.

  • Communication Styles Vary
  • Family Dynamics Are Unique for Every Family
  • Alternative Treatment Approaches
    • We’ve all heard the terms Eastern Medicine and Western Medicine. They are very different approaches to treating the same disorders and illnesses. Eastern medicine, western medicine and other approaches all have research behind them. Some individuals and families lean more heavily in one direction than others. Some families use combinations of different approaches. Our role is to be mindful that different approaches exist, share our approaches as providers, and be respectful of the different approaches families incorporate into their process. All that said, sometimes there are families engaging in approaches that research does not support. If that’s the case, share the most current research with families. Let them know that you are not judging them or trying to influence their decisions but that you just want them to be as informed as possible about different treatment approaches. 

Consider How Culture Can Impact Language Patterns

building relationships with families

Prior to assessment and treatment planning, it is important to consider how culture impacts language development and language patterns.  This helps us determine difference vs. disorder when evaluating because the nature of the standardized evaluation (labeling pictures, answering questions, pragmatic communication, such as maintaining eye contact) can be in contrast to cultural behaviors. Considering culture also helps us to determine appropriate treatment goals.  For example, making a goal to maintain eye contact would not be appropriate if it is considered rude in their culture. Selecting goals meaningful to families maximizes parent involvement.

ASHA states that it is best practice to determine if communication patterns are related to the patient’s linguistic or cultural background by reviewing cultural and linguistic factors that may influence communication. 

Where Can I Find Information About Cultural Differences?

Some websites that provide useful information include: 

Why is culture so important for SLPs to consider?

In addition to the changing demographics in the United States, which is becoming a more diverse country by the day, there are other reasons we should consider cultural differences when building relationships with families. 

The Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence spells out a few: 

  • To eliminate long-standing disparities in the health status of people of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.- Not only are we supporting the culture and involve families but also helping parents to navigate this disparity
  • To improve the quality of services and health outcomes.
  • To meet legislative, regulatory and accreditation mandates.
  • To decrease the likelihood of liability/malpractice claims.”
  • And last but certainly not least, we are ethically obligated to

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, Chelsey Contillo and Samantha Lovgren-Uribe put together a great .15 ASHA CEU online course on the topic of Building Family Relationships. You can access it here. And, as always, if you are a member of SLP Impact, the course is included in your membership.

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