Rapport Building with Children & Families, Family Education & Coaching

Clinicians who establish authentic connections with children and families most likely will have greater opportunities to maximize client success with speech/language goals. Building trust is the leading foundation for a healthy therapeutic relationship with families and their children. Without trust, the families may become reluctant to take their children to speech therapy, and they may not practice therapy strategies at home. If a child does not trust the clinician, children may not participate in speech therapy activities. It is crucial to build trust with children and families from the very beginning, so that they know that they are in a safe environment.

When parents and speech language pathologists have better relationships, children feel more supported because they know their parents and speech language pathologist are communicating. As a result, children are more motivated in their therapy sessions. Building trust also helps parents feel involved in their child’s therapy process.

As clinicians, it is our responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively in a professional manner with all families about their children. Always start with the goals. Communicate the child’s goals for the parents to understand and implement. If a child is not making progress, the speech language pathologist must indicate what the parents must work on with their children to ease the process of communication for the child. Determine whether you should share data or percentages with parents; this may intimidate the parent. However, it is also important to highlight the strengths of the child from a professional standpoint. For example, a child may be struggling with expressive language, but the child has effective or higher language comprehension skills. It is important to explain information clearly to the family. Additionally, it is important for clinicians to incorporate the family’s cultural background in therapy sessions with children’s literature, games, toys, and learning activities.

In addition to communication, speech language pathologists are there to listen to the family’s concerns or worries about their child. Always take the parent’s suggestions and concerns into consideration. As speech language pathologists, we can carry their suggestions into therapy practice for their child. For example, if the parent reveals that an autistic child is getting bullied, take that into consideration. Develop a new goal with social problem scenarios related to the child to address functional pragmatic skills for the child. This will help the child to process his or her own feelings while allowing the child to express himself or herself in these scenarios.

Speech language pathologists must connect with children and families to maximize client success. Children who receive speech/language therapy are diverse learners, and intervention must be tailored to their needs.  It is noticeable if one does not clearly acknowledge or care about the concerns of children or families. As clinicians, empathy is another responsibility that we must practice. Without empathy or an authentic connection, a child may not feel motivated to continue putting forth effort in speech language therapy. In addition, empathy and a professional relationship will help build trust with families and the children whom you work with.

The following elements were found to be necessary to ensure effective outcomes in parent coaching:

  • Sharing information/ knowledge
  • Observing the parent-child interaction
  • Demonstrating a speech/language building strategy
  • Encouraging and supporting the parent to practice with feedback
  • Encouraging parent reflection, evaluation, and active problem solving
  • Joint planning with the parent

(Dunst & Trivette, 2009; Friedman, Woods & Salisbury, 2012)

Source: Dunst, C.J. & Trivette, C.M. (2009). Let’s be PALS: An evidence-based approach to professional development. Infants & Young Children, 22(3), 161-176. (https://depts.washington.edu/isei/iyc/22.3_Dunst.pdf)