There is an old adage in clinical and educational fields that goes something like this: Parents know their children best. This notion is borne out in recent research on language development in children, in which investigators have found that parent report of overall communication capability is predictive of a child’s later academic achievement. It is believed that parents bring a global perspective on their youngsters’ communication skills that cannot be captured in a clinical setting. It seems that parents are keen observers of their children’s strengths and weaknesses – in fact, research has suggested that parents and clinicians often agree in their assessments of a child’s communication skills – thus, making the parent a valued member of the team. Yet, when it comes to decision making in therapy, parents do not always feel included. In this column, I highlight strategies parents can use to play a role in their child’s stuttering therapy.
Ask for “talking time” with your child’s clinician.
If you don’t have regular opportunities to talk with your child’s clinician, request them. If we believe (as I do) that parents bring an important perspective to the therapeutic process and their input is essential to success, then time must be devoted to the parent, just as it is to the child. You and your child’s clinician will need to develop a mechanism for ensuring your “talking time” is preserved – whether that be in person, on the phone, via email, etc. Most important is your participation in the therapeutic process.
Record your observations (when possible).
As parents, we are observing our children all the time, but we may have trouble remembering our observations when asked about them later. I recommend writing down what you observe – not just focusing on the stuttering, but making sure to record what’s working. Take notes on the context, your child’s behavior, your behavior, how behaviors and attitudes have changed, family dynamics, etc. This can be done as brief notes that serve as reminders at your next “talking time.” For example, “…fluency best in mornings…. with family members….we use this time to practice fluency as much as possible…..and expect less fluency and talking at other times…”
Identify your priorities for your child’s therapy.
In part, the success your child achieves in therapy depends on the match between your goals and those of the clinician. The best therapy plan is one in which these overlap entirely. You and the clinician can partner to identify the top three priorities, where you would like to see your child’s communication at the end of therapy, and how your child is functioning at the present time. The process of identifying these components early in therapy serves to create a common ground for you and the clinician, and allows you to be an equal partner in determining the course of therapy.
Do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Knowledge is power.” Educate yourself. Find reputable sources (beginning with the NSA) and learn more about stuttering and its treatment. Seek out other parents who have experienced what you are going through. Every parent of a child who stutters has questions. Go ahead and ask! The answer may surprise you!
Nancy E. Hall, Ph.D., CCC-SLPa