The Clinic Corner
BY: SARA FREDERICK, M.S. ED, CCC-SLP
GREETINGS! My name is Sara Frederick, and I am pleased to be a new member of the Hilgenberg Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders. I’m currently in my third year with HASA and have felt so welcomed to Scottish Rite by the Masons. The clinicians of Scottish Rite had a very busy Winter and Spring, as we’ve continued to travel to local private schools to provide speech and language screenings, evaluations, and therapy services. We also continue to treat many clients within the clinic, both during and after school hours. One of the most common questions we receive from parents is, “How can I help my child with communication goals at home?” It’s one of my favorite topics to explore, as finding the right answer to this question often involves getting to know each family on an even more personal level.
There is a huge push right now for integrating therapy goals into a child’s functional environment. In fact, the ASHA Leader recently published an article about the importance of the coaching model and incorporating language strategies into a child’s functional routines. Additionally, the state of Maryland is currently experiencing vast changes within early intervention programs to encourage use of therapy goals and strategies within a family’s everyday activities. The key to this is collaboration and caregiver education. As clinicians, we need to first learn from parents: what motivates the child, what skills we can build upon, and what activities are particularly tricky. We can then coach parents through these activities (i.e. dressing, mealtime, transitions, sharing books, cleaning up, etc.) by providing specific language strategies to use in order to build upon their child’s current communication skills and decrease the associated frustration of communication mismatch. Many of these strategies eventually become habitual for parents and generalize to other routines, allowing families to have more successful and productive interactions, overall. It’s very empowering for both parents and children!
For parents of early language learners, these strategies could be as simple as:
- providing two verbal choices, paired with presented items
- simplifying sentences when speaking to the child - slowing down speech, adding pauses, and adding emphasis to words
- including visual cues, such as pictures, gestures, or signs when modeling language
- repeating and expanding your child’s sentence (i.e. “Dog run”, “Yes, the dog runs fast!”)
No matter the communication goals, it’s crucial for parents to incorporate strategies into everyday routines. An SLP may only see a child 30-60 minutes per week, and historically, these sessions have been quite structured. While this model is beneficial for some learners, research is supporting that progress is more measurable when a communicator can practice language strategies within more organic opportunities. As we continue through Spring and move into Summer, the clinicians of the Hilgenberg Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders will be continuously working to provide the most functional therapy for our clients by collaborating with their families to turn goals into skills. Thank you for your support in our mission to bring these valuable skills to our families!