As schools continue in hybrid and remote models, parents and caregivers of students with special needs have often been serving in a primary support role to help deliver their child’s services. While there are some initial and ongoing challenges for families to navigate, there are often a range of particularly compelling benefits, many of which could be here to stay. At times the shift has opened up a stronger and more collaborative relationship among the parent, child, and therapist. But, as parents and caregivers take on these expanded roles, they have also had a range of questions and their own learning curves. In fact, “tips for parents supporting speech therapy at home” was listed as one of Google’s leading search terms during the fall months. Responding to this growing need, Kristin Martinez, clinical director of SLP & OT, developed the following article with tips for parents and caregivers supporting children of all age groups. This is the first piece in a new PresenceLearning series about at-home support for a range of student IEPs. Read on to learn more and stay connected.
Teletherapy at home can be a really effective and positive experience for students and families—and is well-suited to help a growing number of schools and states open up access to services for more students and truly meet each one where they are. During the pandemic in particular, we’ve witnessed firsthand how parents and caregivers have risen to many occasions whenever they can and as best they can to support continuity in services for their children with special needs.
Some of the advantages we’ve seen during speech therapy at home include the parent or caregiver seeing strategies firsthand and gaining deeper knowledge into the child’s therapy exercises and goals, which can enhance how they support their child throughout the week. For example, for students using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, parents can sometimes feel unsure of how best to leverage these low- or high-tech devices in the home setting to support their child’s communication. When teletherapy services are being provided in the home setting with the parent or caregiver as support person, however, the SLP has the opportunity to observe how the child and parent use the AAC device, and then provide modeling and coaching to ensure the parent is empowered to leverage the AAC system for maximum communicative impact.
As parents gain greater visibility into the effectiveness of their expanded support role at home, it’s no surprise that parents are searching online for a range of resources and tips on supporting speech and language at home (starting with speech therapy for toddlers at home and all the age groups from there) and speech therapy exercises at home, among numerous other resources. I hope the below “tips” (organized by age group) are helpful in your journey. I look forward to providing more resources in the coming months.
The youngest group of students we see for speech therapy are commonly toddlers (typically ages 3 or 4). The impact that parents of young children have by implementing their SLP’s recommended strategies cannot be overstated. Therapists might work directly with early intervention or preschool age children once or twice a week, but parents interact with their children daily, and can significantly influence their child’s ability to generalize skills. With standard in-person therapy, the parent may not be present for much or any of the therapy session, and sometimes it can be challenging for the SLP to share and model strategies. A teletherapy model, by contrast, that requires the parent to be involved generally throughout each speech-language therapy sessions supports parent engagement and education, once again empowering the parent to better support his/her child’s communicative development throughout the week. This age group is often not working on a screen by themselves for long stretches of time, so the parent or guardian is crucial for ensuring that the therapist can guide the discussion and that the model is working smoothly. Consider the following tips:
This age is gaining more and more independence each year. Your child can log into the online therapy session on their own (and often enjoy doing so!) and usually participate fairly independently. Like younger children, elementary students are often still receiving a high frequency of services and direct therapy. As a parent or guardian you can provide a strong level support by:
This is the age group when students can start to lose interest in their speech therapy. Having direct insights into your child’s work can help you be particularly supportive at this age (with the right amount and at the right time).
Providing teletherapy services in a home setting can present its own challenges; however, knowing what questions to ask and taking time to educate parents and to engage them in the process can yield valuable results for children. Our home readiness survey is a great way to get started, but consider the following areas in particular:
As we look to the future, my greatest hope is that all children will have equal access to quality speech-language services, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status, and that legislators and educators take action to support this access—both by bridging the Internet and technology gap that exists for many families and by removing some of the regulatory and cultural barriers to teletherapy that currently exist.
Supporting speech therapy at home can be a challenge for parents and caregivers. But it is often a fruitful experience too. The experience can provide a range of new knowledge and practical methods for integrating therapy into your child’s daily life. It can also help you to develop a far stronger relationship with your child’s SLP and IEP team, which can give everyone better information and help your child work more effectively and efficiently toward their goals.
Interested in learning more? Here are a few resources I recommend:
Kristin Martinez received her M.A. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and has been a speech-language pathologist for 20 years. Kristin provided speech-language therapy to children in her local school district and in private practice before starting as a teletherapist with PresenceLearning in 2013. Kristin is PresenceLearning Clinical Director, SLP and OT, teletherapy subject matter expert for school districts across the country, and she presents on the topics of speech-language pathology and teletherapy nationwide.