We want to help kids. It’s our job and it’s the reason we chose our work. Parents want the best for their children, too. However, sometimes the parent denies there’s any issue with their child’s communication. Or, when the assessment is done, the result is sometimes more serious than a parent can cope with.
This can lead to a disagreement that’s frustrating both to you and the parent. So how do you get back on the same team? Here are 5 strategies to get you working together again.
Compliment the child and acknowledge strengths.
Compliment the child to the parents and in front of them. It sends the message that you like the child, and helps parents to realize that any bad news you bring comes from a place of wanting to help. As for the assessment, emphasize what the child did well.
“She’s such a fast runner!”
“He did a great job on the articulation portion. His speech is easy to understand.”
Validate the parent.
Take every opportunity to acknowledge the parent’s feelings and actions. Let them know you see what they see.
“I can hear you’re worried about how he repeats the first sound of words. I hear exactly what you mean, and I’m concerned about it too.”
“You did the right thing by agreeing to an evaluation.”
Give red flags in real time, or with concrete examples.
If the parent is with you during the session, tell them what you see as you see it. If they aren’t, describe a specific incident that raised concerns. Either way, be as positive as you can.
“Wow, he really wants that car on the high shelf. I’m glad he’s communicating effectively right now by pulling you toward it. Although, for a child his age, I’d expect a short phrase to let us know what he wants.”
Don’t engage with excuses.
Sometimes parents dismiss or explain away red flags. Often, contradicting parents directly just doesn’t work, and puts your rapport in jeopardy. If a parent gives you an excuse, simply say, “That’s possible”, and move on. Acceptance is a process. Paint the picture, and let them step back to see it when they’re ready.
Empower the parent.
It’s scary for a parent not to know how to help their child. So, as a clinician, tell them! Having strategies and a plan makes a communication disorder seem like less of a big, scary problem, and that makes it a tiny bit easier to accept.
“Did you hear him use a word when the toy was out of reach? That’s a great strategy to use at home, and it’s something we can build on in therapy.”
And remember, you and the parent both want the same thing: what’s best for the child. By validating parents and empowering them to help, and by making your points and your good intentions clear, you’ll be able to move toward that goal.