Top Ten Things Your SLP May Be Too Nice to Tell You…Tips for Parents for Maximizing Therapy Sessions at Home

10 things

TOP 10 THINGS YOUR THERAPIST WANTS YOU TO KNOW AND MAY BE TOO NICE TO TELL YOU –

1. Minimize the distractions from other people for your child, especially during initial sessions.

This means don’t have grandparents or your best friend or the neighbor’s children over if you’re doing home visits or teletherapy until your child has established relationships with her therapists. It’s much easier to keep a new client’s attention if the stressors are limited in the beginning. Grandparents can come to watch after your therapist has a good read on your child, and after a child already loves her and wants to play.

A crowd is not a good idea for sessions. Many times you can’t all fit in the same room anyway! I now live in a very rural part of Kentucky and run a mission-based therapy program. Sometimes 3 or 4 (very well-meaning and even excited) adults want to come to therapy with one child. I have a HUGE therapy room and it can still feel crowded with one kid, me, mom and/or dad, plus 2 other people! While it’s FANTASTIC that everyone wants to be so involved, you will need to let adults take turns accompanying the child to therapy.

2. Turn the TV off and take away the iPad before the session begins! 

It’s so hard to start a therapy session when your child is having a melt-down because his favorite show or video on YouTube has been abruptly turned off.  The exception, of course, is when you’re successfully using a screen or an app to address your therapy goals during sessions, but I don’t do that very much either with young children! It often shuts down interaction and defeats the whole purpose of therapy – learning to listen to and communicate with other people.

3. Put the pacy and cups away.

That is unless you’re working on feeding, oral motor with a straw cup, or your kid absolutely, positively has to have the pacifier to regulate. Your therapist may want you to keep the pacy and cup available (many times I do!!), but she should NOT have to be the one to have to pry it from your child’s mouth! It makes her the bad guy, and that’s really a parent’s job.

4. Do a “warm up” before therapy begins. 

Act excited before she gets there or before you arrive at the office/school telling your child, “________ is coming to play!” Or “We’re going to see ____!” Do a movement activity like swinging or jumping on the bed or couch or running laps 5 minutes before the session begins. This serves to pep up kids who need to kick it up a notch to talk. Movement will also calm really active kids who have a hard time engaging and attending.

5. Follow your therapist’s lead with participating in the session.

I LOVE for moms to sit and actually play with us. It makes everything go better when mom can follow up after therapy is over and that’s actually the whole point of early intervention – teaching parents what to do all day every day! Parental participation is always, always, always the preference, but…

Sometimes mom is so chatty that I can’t get a word in edge-wise and we end up talking about her issues which is fine, but not every session. Or a mom (accidentally) sabotages therapy by answering for her child or is too quick to jump in to rescue her child (a little bit of frustration is sometimes good thing). Sometimes parents are too mean and the child remains upset (more about that below). Or sometimes an overly protective mom justifies every little negative thing that a child may do and very little gets done in therapy. (He’s tired today because he went to bed late. He doesn’t like that toy. He hates singing. He would play better with a purple balloon, not blue. I think he might be teething. He doesn’t like it when you ask him to do things. And so on…)

Do chime in and tell her why you think something may be going badly (i.e. “This is his 3rd day of antiobiotics for an ear infection.” or “He was up 7 times during the night.”), but don’t tie her hands or so lower the expectations that she ends up wondering why you didn’t call to reschedule if he’s truly having such a bad day.

If your child is clingy and won’t interact or play with your therapist, make yourself present, but maybe not quite as available. For instance, casually move away or stand up so he can’t sit in your lap. Be there so he’s not stressed, but don’t coddle him unless he really needs it. If in doubt, ask your therapist what she’d like you to do.

Read your child’s cues, BUT remember that challenging your child may be just what he needs. Don’t feel threatened if a therapist is not doing it exactly as you would. She’s there to teach you NEW stuff.

6. Cancel if you know you’re not going to get anything accomplished, and please cancel if anyone at home has an illness that’s contagious.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a child and felt him burning up with a fever or sat while mom changed dirty diaper after dirty diaper and thought…. I hope I’m not going to catch this and take it on to my next 4 clients or home to my own famly! Speech therapy is important, but it’s not an emergency! It’s okay to miss a session when your child is not going to benefit anyway. This might also include the day you’re leaving on vacation and the house is a disaster or when the water heater has broken and the repairman is going to be going in and out of the front door 50 times.

This is also true for when Dad is home with the flu. He’s touched doorknobs. He’s sneezed out his germs into the air. Cancel or at least call and warn her!

7. Handle your child’s major behavioral issues, but not the minor ones.

I’d rather ignore little infringements than get off on the wrong foot with a kid. I almost always use gentle redirection in sessions rather than “disciplinary” stuff like time out or even verbal corrections. However, if your child is truly being horrible (i.e., purposefully throwing toys at your therapist, hitting, biting, destroying her toys, or hurting your other children), step in and parent. If you’re not sure how to handle these behaviors and also need coaching in this area, ask her to model what she would do for discipline in that situation.

One other pet peeve I have is parents who are constantly chiming in, “Tell her thank you,” “Say please or you can’t have it, ” “Say MISS Laura,” or using other politeness or verbal cues that are irritating for a non-talker and for me when we’re just trying to get ANY word! Ditch the etiquette lessons until he can communicate!

8. Don’t save all of your questions for the last minute.

I routinely ask moms how the week is gone, if they have any questions, etc… at the beginning of the session. Answering questions is what your therapist is there for, so don’t save a bombshell bit of information or a long question until she’s about to walk out the door. It’s not fair to her other families who may be waiting 20 minutes for their appointment because she feels like she must answer your question before she leaves. If it’s a complicated issue she may need to think about, leave her a voice mail or shoot her an e-mail a day or two before she comes so she can be prepared with a credible answer.

9. Be respectful of her schedule.

Schedule all of your other appointments around your therapy time. You wouldn’t call your pediatrician’s office and say, “I’d like to come in on Tuesday at 10.” You take what they give you. While it’s important for therapists to be flexible and respectful of your schedule, you may not be able to dictate exactly when you want her to come. If a therapist has a good reputation, she is going to be busy. If she’s busy, you’re going to need to take what appointment you can get, within reason of course. I am very careful to tell parents that I don’t want to come at the worst possible time of the day, but if you have to push lunch back a little and put your child down 30 minutes earlier for a nap so that your great therapist can come for an afternoon appointment, so be it. Not every client can be seen at 10:00 am on Wednesday. Be flexible.

10.Help your child love therapy!

Sometimes parents subconsciously sabotage their child’s good relationship with a therapist out of well, jealousy, or mistrust, or any other number of unproductive emotions. You need your child to love, or like, or at least tolerate, his therapist. Stay positive, even when it may be off to a rocky start. Don’t characterize the session as “work.” Don’t say negative things like, “Do you want _____ to go home?” Or “We’re going to leave if you don’t listen to her.” Don’t ask him, “Do you want to play with her today?” when the answer may be “No!” Expect that he and you are going to benefit tremendously from each session, and do everything you can to make it happen.

If your child hates therapy, consider switching approaches, times of the day, settings, or as a last resort, therapists. Unfortunately, there are good and bad SLPs just like there are good and bad hairdressers, car mechanics, preachers, cashiers, and math teachers.  Find a good match for your child so he can get the help he needs.

 

Laura

7 Comments

  1. Nel on May 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you for this…nice to see that I’m doing most of these suggestions already….I am however, an admitted “last minute questioner” and you’re right I can leave e-mails and voice mails. Probably will get a more thought out answers to my questions too!

  2. angeltish on June 2, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Hi Laura! Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into your articles. This site has a goldmine of information! I have been a developmental therapist for just over a year and usually the kiddos that I work with have speech delays. I’ve read all of your articles, sometimes several times, to gain as much knowledge as possible because I have a degree in Elementary Education, not speech therapy. I’m feeling stuck and think you’ll be able to help. Most of the kiddos I work with are at least imitating sounds and actions when I start with them. One little guy is 2 years old and a couple months and rarely imitates me or his parents. I’ve been with him for about a month so I’m not sure if I’m not doing everything I should be or just not giving him enough time. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!

  3. Laura on June 2, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Angeltish – I’m so glad you’re finding this site helpful! It’s written for parents AND therapists, especially new ones. If you haven’t read this in one of my articles, one of my very best friends is a developmental therapist, and we have discussed and re-hashed all of this stuff on our cell phones between appointments with kids for almost 10 years now. I also owned a center-based developmental playgroup and employed several great DTs, so developmental interventionists are near and dear to me!

    As far as imitating skills for your little client, read the article “Help! My Child Can’t Imitate Words.” It’s in the apraxia category. I always start with imitating actions in play if a child can’t imitate sounds. Also – make sure you’ve got him engaged. A distracted or isolated child is NOT going to imitate you until he is interacting with you. Try using a really playful, really fun approach to get him going. He may also need lots of movement activities before he’s regulated and ready too. If you need more ideas, send me back a few more details, and I’ll be glad to let you know what I think. Laura

  4. Kendra on October 7, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    LOVE this article. I think I may print it out and nicely give it to EVERY family I work with!

  5. Linda on April 30, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Hi, My grandson, Aidrik will be four in a month. He has had two sessions with his speech therapist, and I am not sure what to think. First of all, I should preface this with the fact that Aidrik and his mom live with my husband and I and we are as much, sometimes more his parents than his mother. His father is not in the picture at all. My question is, Is his therapist going to ever show us things to be doing at home? As it is, she takes him off into a room and we know nothing about what they are doing. We,before starting therapy had already begun teaching him ASL, and he has done well with it, and tries hard to say what he is signing. He mainly leaves out consonants from words ie. cup is up, cookie is ooie, car is ar. I would like to find someone that will come to our home, but not sure how to go about it. Any advice or insight will be greatly appreciated.

  6. Kara on June 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Please add, “Don’t bribe your child.” and/or “Don’t tell your child to make sure they do good in speech.” It irritates me when parents tell their child that they will go get ice cream, a toy or some other “treat” if they do good in speech and then put the therapist on the spot by asking if the child did well. I almost always use verbal praise & very rarely reward children with ‘treats’ and tell the parents upfront that I will always tell them their child did well. Imagine the damage that can be done to the child/therapist relationship if I told the parent the child did not do well. I once had a child who would not talk during sessions because the parents pressured her to make sure she did well in speech. She was so worried that she wouldn’t do well that she would hardly say a word. We finally had to switch therapists.

  7. Anonymous on June 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Great handout for parent! thank you

Leave a Comment





Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

"Gosh, I love all of your emails/podcast/website, just everything!! I work in early intervention as a behavior analyst and am learning so much from you!"

Thank you!

Hailey

 

"Laura,

I love your work! I am a professor of early childhood special education and a speech language pathologist! I have worked to help children learn to communicate and I know how valuable the information you share is for both early interventionists and pediatric speech language pathologists!

Thank you for systematically organizing and explaining essential steps for young children to learn and develop. You are having a great impact on our profession, the ECE profession and families!"

Sincerely,

David

"Thank you.

If this is Laura herself reading this email let me take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have put forth for us professionals. I own every manual (except the autism manual) and have watched every course on DVD. I have listened to countless podcasts. All of what I’ve come to be as an Early Intervention speech therapist was absolutely to your credit. With your resources at my side I have never needed to scramble for answers and strategies and above all the clear language I use when communicating with parents. My fun, animated affect and key phrases I use have been learned through watching your example. So….thank you! May you be blessed."

Chaya

"I just wanted to thank you so much for your incredible help! You are so kind and lovely and every time I implement something you've taught in your manuals or videos it is always a success, I cannot thank you enough. I really appreciate how specific you are in giving us examples of wording to use and how to use a toy in therapy with your videos, it is exactly what I need to properly help my little students. I also really appreciate your list of books of list of toys. I have seen my little students make significant progress thanks to you. I'm looking forward to watching more of your videos, taking more of your CEU's, and reading more of your materials. From the bottom of my heart: thank you so much again!!"

Lauren

"Dear Laura,

What an inspiration!

Thank you for helping me be a better Developmental Therapist. I often listen to your podcasts which help me help families.

Your enthusiasm, professionalism and
the sheer volume of information is so great.

You are part of my team.

I just wanted you to know I appreciate you."

Margaret

"Dear Laura,

Thank you for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge in such a clear and enthusiastic way.

As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

It works!! He went from barely verbal, no gestures, didn't respond to his name etc etc to a verbal, social, curious, ready to imitate anything, fill in the blanks on familiar "set" speech, generate his own totally appropriate and mostly understandable sentences...not just short phrases anymore... full little paragraphs...about imaginary things, what he did during the day, what he wants. True communication!

You make a powerful difference in this world! ❤"

With gratitude,
Diane

"Laura Mize, you are a Godsend. I don’t know how one human can have so many helpful things to say in a beautifully organized way, so often. Always amazes me when another super helpful email comes from you, and for free. With free YouTube videos and cheap CEUs. THANK YOU!!!"

Sheila, Canada

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."

LINDSAY

"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"

FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN

"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA

"I just really appreciate your courses! I have two new clinicians that I’m working with and have recommended these courses to both of them. I’ve watched quite a few and have learned so much about serving this population. To be honest, before I started implementing your strategies I was a little frustrated with the lack of progress. My skills with engaging these little ones have improved so much! Thank you so much for making these CEUs so valuable!" C, SLP