School-based speech-language pathologists work hard to provide services to students—so much so that they may forget to involve students' parents. This oversight is understandable considering the many demands of the profession, but it can actually hinder students' progress.
Parents can play an important role in treatment, and truly engaged parents also can be advocates for resources and procedures that improve overall services. Parents have effectively advocated for specialized assessment instruments, professional development opportunities, and even support staff. If you have established a positive relationship, involved parents are less likely to settle differences via due process procedure. To build relationships, start with those children new to services and/or families of early elementary students. Here are some strategies:
Individualized education program meetings are one opportunity to review a child's communication disorder, but may not be the best setting for open discussion because of time restraints. One solution is to have this discussion prior to the meeting, either in person or over the phone, especially with highly concerned parents or those who may be moving toward a due process request. Parents often want to know: What caused it? Can it be cured? Did I do anything to contribute to the disorder? What can I do to help? Is this common? Use language that considers the language and literacy of the parent. Provide print materials for parents to better understand the disorder and the treatment process. Parent-Professional Partnerships [PDF] discusses issues to consider and provides tips that help to develop relationships (see more ideas and resources in "Resources for Working With Parents" below).
Parents as Resources
Many parents are looking for ways to support their child. Most SLPs have plenty of ideas and resources, but no time to develop them. Create a parent group that could help you prepare materials, organize training opportunities, and act as contacts for parents of newly identified students with communication disorders. Parents Working With Speech-Language Pathologists to Foster Partnerships in Education outlines a program to help parents become active participants. To find the time to work effectively with parents, you can ask for funding to develop materials and training programs during the summer or even request that these kinds of activities be the focus of professional development sessions. Also, working as a team to develop parent resources that can be shared among all district or state SLPs can save everyone a little time.
Yes, working with parents puts another demand on your time, but it may ultimately save you time and contribute to the success of your students.