Clinical Quality Manager Kristin Martinez, CCC-SLP, offers tips for building rapport with teachers, parents, and caregivers in order to ensure students reach their full potential. Read the interview below for best practices to start the school year off right.
- After you’ve made your initial introductions, how do you build lasting relationships with school staff members and parents/caregivers?
- Make it clear that you want to be an active member of the child’s and school’s team, and that you are invested in your students’ success both in the classroom and at home! Parents and teachers have a lot on their plates, in addition to the fact that they might not always fully understand the role of related care providers and how we can support students’ needs. It is important that the therapist take the initiative to learn about students’ strengths and needs in the classroom and home settings, and to continually and consistently reach out with ideas, practice materials, and support.
- What recommendations do you have for other therapists who are struggling to make connections with parents/caregivers?
- Reach out with good news! Parents and caregivers get to hear quite a bit about their childrens’ struggles and areas of need, but how often do they get a call about something positive? Even if it’s just that your student had a great attitude during a session or was able to communicate what happened over the weekend, calling parents with some positive news is a great way to “break the ice” and will hopefully encourage parents to return your call or email. This simple gesture might open up the channels of communication for the remainder of the school year (plus, it’s so fun to make those calls!).
- What activities can parents do to support learning at home? And how do you go about making these recommendations?
- While completion of homework to establish learned skills can be very important, we know that carryover of skills is greatest when practice can be built into functional routines and activities. In order for this to happen, we as therapists need to keep recommendations simple, and limit the number of things we ask parents to implement at home. For instance, a great way for a parent or caregiver to support a young child’s language development is to “think out loud.” Suggest that parents narrate what they’re doing as they make breakfast, do laundry and take walks. Model this behavior for parents and explain why it can be such a powerful support to their child’s language development!
- Can you recommend any games that students and parents can enjoy together that also facilitate progress on communication goals?
Ideally, you will have the opportunity to invite parents to observe some therapy sessions with their child, and you can then demonstrate the most effective way to incorporate goal areas into these or other home games:
- Memory: One basic, but highly versatile, game is Memory. There are both online and low-tech versions of this game, but regardless of the format, the manner in which the game is utilized is what will be most meaningful to each child’s development.
- Guess Who or What: This is another flexible game that can be played at home, on a walk, or in the car. It can be very low-tech, but can also involve whatever technology parents have at home, particularly if that is motivating for the child! Ask parents to have their child describe and get them to guess one of the family pets, or have him/her describe one of three pictures of pets that they pull up on their phone.