I’ll be honest, I was supposed to write about using Non-Word Repetition tasks in  the assessment process for today’s blog but something I read in the ASHA Leader this past week riled me up so I had to switch to talking about working with families.

There was an article in the ASHA Leader about working with families entitled, From Couching to Coachingthat really rubbed me the wrong way.  As most of you know, in addition to being a speech-language pathologist, I am also the parent of a child with special needs.

boy and horse

I had twins who were premature and one of them suffered severe health issues in his first few months of life.  The impact has been, and will be, lifelong.  We’ve been in early childhood programs, preschool programs for children with disabililites, elementary school combinations of inclusion and resource, and now we are in a Life Skills program in middle school.  I will tell you that having a child with significant disabilities and significant behavioral struggles is CHALLENGING.

So, when I put my parent goggles on and read the October 2018 ASHA Leader about working with families, I was disappointed.

I don’t feel the article’s tone moves the conversation forward.  And truthfully, I think it actually risks perpetuating a misinformed idea that parents are lazy, uninterested, and don’t want to be involved.

Here was the author’s problem statement:

“The problem is, families may still be sitting on the couch, unengaged, expecting us to work exclusively with their young children…”

I don’t think it is fair of us as professionals to assume that families are sitting on the couch unengaged.  As a parent of a special needs child, I can tell you that it is an all day, every day, all-in process of managing more appointments in a month than most kids have in their childhood.  I will also say that I have had plenty of Early Childhood Intervention professionals come into my home to work with my child with me at their side eager to participate, and they have not engaged me.

Another statement the author made was:

“Other reasons parents may not directly involve themselves include:…a mismatch between the family’s and the practitioner’s expectations and priorities, which means the parent doesn’t see the need to be a part of or do what the practitioner does.”

Okay, guys, as a profession we have to recognize that mismatches result from many things.  We can’t put this all on the parents!

Maybe we need to also consider these things to think about what WE can do differently:

  • the clinician has not shared WHY they are doing what they are doing
  • the clinician has made obscure requests without considering the family’s time, resources, or reality
  • the clinician’s instructions for follow through between visits were not clear
  • the clinician did not address what the parents were most concerned about.

These are just a handful of many reasons that have been collected through research on parent involvement.

Routines-Based Early Intervention Guidebookk

Ten years ago, these very issues prompted us to write our very first book, Routines-Based Early Intervention Guidebook, so that we could work toward positive and productive relationships with families.

I recognize that the author’s overall goal was to increase parent involvement, and I appreciate that. I just don’t think the choice of words and overall sentiment moves our field in the right direction.

Here’s to YOU, SLPs and YOU, Parents.  Let’s all work together to move our kids forward.


Ellen Kester, Thomas’s mom, Ph.D, CCC-SLP

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