Why Parents Should Participate in their Child’s Therapy Session

Why Parents Should Participate in their Child’s Therapy Session

This article is dedicated to the parents of young children who receive speech-language therapy. The goal is to educate parents about the benefits of being active participants in therapy sessions.

Dear parents, 

Please join your child in his/her speech-language therapy sessions. You will learn a lot, feel more connected and develop skills to help your child improve speech and language skills. Joining your child in the therapy session will empower you and you’ll leave the helpless feelings behind. For years, research has supported the involvement of parents in their child’s therapy session. I would like parents to end every speech-language therapy session feeling like they know how to practice goals to improve speech and language skills at home. 

Here are 3 ways to get involved and see quicker improvement in therapy:

#1. Be present at all if not most of your child’s therapy sessions.

When you are inside the therapy room you get a first-hand look at what the therapist is doing and how your child is responding. You get to see what works, what doesn’t work and what the therapist does to make it work.  You have opportunities to ask questions on the spot and join in the treatment. I recommend that you ask a few questions at the beginning of the session and communicate that you would like to take turns participating in the session. This will help the therapist plan the session so that you can take turns too. Avoid asking too many questions during the session because you might disrupt the flow and might shift the focus of the therapist’s goals. Here are some questions you can quickly ask at the beginning of the session.
  1. What are your goals for today’s session?
  2. Can you tell me about the concepts you are targeting today?
  3. What vocabulary are you teaching?
  4. How can I be an active participant in the session?
  5. Can you coach me on how to target goals when it’s my turn in the activity?

#2. Do your homework.

After each therapy session, you will have homework even if not explicitly mentioned by your therapist. Your homework consists of practicing what you’ve learned during your child’s session. The therapist may provide activities but if not, think of ways to replicate the activities at home. Here are some things to consider when practicing what you’ve learned at home.
  1. What goal are you working on? Ask the therapist what to focus on at home.
  2. How much help should I provide my child with? Ask the therapist to teach you how to “cue” your child.
  3.  How can I make a task/activity easier for my child? Ask the therapist to teach you ways to “modify” tasks.
  4. How can I get my family involved? Getting siblings involved is fun and motivating. Ask your therapist for ways to incorporate family members when targeting goals at home.

#3. Communicate with your therapist.

The key to success in any type of relationship is communication. Make sure your therapist understands what the most important goals are for you and your family. You may have many goals that cannot all be addressed at once. Together, you and your therapist can come up with a plan to target the most important goals first. Here are some things to consider when thinking about appropriate goals to start with.

  1.  What do I want my child to communicate? We all want children to communicate their needs and their thoughts. However, if your child has limited words, perhaps a goal should be focused on increasing vocabulary of functional words in the categories of foods, toys, actions, body parts, etc. Teaching your child a variety of words is important but take some time to think about what are the most functional and important words to work on.
  2. How should my child communicate? Language learning is a progression. Think about where your child is on that progression and start at the next level. For example, if your child is just starting to imitate sounds, you could focus on imitation of one syllable words. If your child is saying 2-word phrases, you could focus on increasing phrases to 3 words, etc. 
  3. What should my child understand? Comprehension skills should not be ignored. We tend to focus a lot on what a child is saying but we should also focus on what they understand. Think about what your child is able to comprehend now and talk to your therapist about what your child should be able to understand at his/her age.  

Here are some questions to ask yourself about comprehension:

  • Is my child responding to his/her name?
  • Can my child follow 1-step and/or 2-step directions?
  • Does my child sustain attention to stories?
  • Is my child pointing to items that I name?
  • Does my child understand words like me, you, mine?

A word about behavior:

Often times, parents and therapists feel that the child behaves better when the parent is not present. I understand and have had this experience myself. However, if you continue to be a part of your child’s therapy session, you and the therapist will learn ways to improve behavior and compliance. Improving behavior is a team effort and your child will be more likely to participate in carryover activities at home if he/she is use to you being a part of the sessions.

For information about what to expect from birth to 12 months click here. For information about what to expect from 12 months to 24 months, click here.


Photo Credits: Photos on Visual Hunt

I’d love to read your questions or comments below.