As an SLP myself, I can recall many questions from parents, but there some questions that have been more effective in starting therapy off on the right foot. And oftentimes, SLP's don't remember to give you this information early enough in the process. Maybe this is because we tend to jump right in and forget that some parents are brand new to the process; or maybe some SLPs aren't as comfortable as others offering up certain information right away. Whatever the reasons, I think if parents come in prepared with these questions, the therapy plan for their child would be clearer and lead to more successful overall progress.
1. What is your philosophy/style and how does it differ from other therapists?
It is so important to understand your therapist's style or technique. Most parents don't realize that we all have different styles and reasons for our methods. But more importantly, you want a therapist who is confident in his/her philosophy and has successes and experience to show for that method. There are play-based approaches, traditional and more structured styles, and lots more in between. The style that works best for you may be one that involves parents in the session or one that is more structured. It also depends on your child's personality, what kinds of things motivate him, and what has worked in the past. Need help figuring out what style of therapy would be best for your child? Contact us or pose a question here for help.
2. What are your specialties?
You definitely don't want your child seen by just any therapist. What if the SLP specialized in stuttering and has had little experience with Autism. Just because your insurance covers a certain therapist, don't fall for the assumption that an SLP can work equally well with everyone and all disorders. You really want someone familiar with your child's diagnosis, and skilled in working with kids with that diagnosis. It may even be worth going out of network to get the best fit!
3. How do you feel about parents being in sessions?
How important is it to you to be part of your child's sessions? Do you want to observe so that you can practice the same methods at home? Do you want to understand how to carry over techniques? Are you better at learning the techniques by watching? Some clinics keep parents out of sessions for various reasons. Maybe they are attempting to keep the clinic less crowded, to limit distractions or to help the child learn independence or overcome separation anxiety. Some reasons are valid and helpful for progress, but I'd suggest staying involved by sitting in sessions at least once a month, or by meeting with the therapist to discuss techniques and methods for a home program. In my personal experience, I've seen quicker all around progress when parents are highly involved: observing, taking part in, and willing to be coached in sessions.
4. How often will we receive a progress report or updated goals? How do you track progress?
This one is important because you need to know there's an end plan. Many therapists go into treatment with no end-goal, but an open-ended approach. This isn't all bad, but in order to keep parents engaged and hopeful, it's important to have an idea of how long therapy may take, and what the standards are for tracking progress. If your therapist doesn't track sessions daily by writing notes with percentages/tallies or some sort of tracking system, it's really difficult to understand how the SLP is measuring things. Make sure to ask your therapist for some kind of progress report or goal check at least every 3-6 months. You don't want to get stuck in the never-ending therapy trap!
5. Will you collaborate with the other therapists/teachers/advocates on my child's team?
The answer to this question is almost always, "YES!" But try and dig a little deeper. What does collaborating mean to your SLP? Does it mean she will send an email once in a while to the other therapists, or maybe make a phone call? Is she willing to take part in IEP meetings, or meetings at the other clinics your child attends? I'll admit, we get busy and sometimes overwhelmed by large caseloads, making it extremely difficult to keep up with all the other therapists for all of the kids we treat. But with some parent-initiation, I've always been willing, and have hugely benefitted from collaboration. Sometimes it's a group email circling around with a few therapists chiming in on goals and progress; or we get in on a group phone call. Even better would be to meet in person if parents can help coordinate. But overall, keep in mind, the more collaboration the better, to keep everyone in the loop. I know it's difficult to juggle OT, PT, ST, ABA, and school services, so with a little effort connecting them all once in a while, we can at least try and simplify things by being on the same page with goals and techniques. Your child will hugely benefit!
*For help with setting up a meeting between all of your child's team members, feel free to contact Aspire For Autism to help. We can make the phone calls/emails to begin the discussion on your behalf!
There are plenty of more questions you can ask your SLP, these are just a few of the most important ones. The more receptive your SLP is to answering these questions, and collaborating with you and the other therapists your child may work with, the better the results!