Please note this blog was originally published on the SAC-OAC Communiqué on 17 August 2015 By Keri Vandongen, R.SLP, S-LP(C). Permission was granted to re-publish it here as the original blog can only be accessed by SAC-OAC members. (The link is http://goo.gl/vA8tpy.)
During this year’s Speech and Hearing Month, I asked myself a key question: Am I getting inside the minds of parents whose children I could help?
Speech and Hearing Month is about raising awareness of communication health and the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology. Over the course of May, I saw Facebook posts and heard about politicians and radio shows promoting the campaign and communication health. But I wasn’t sure if this was enough to connect with parents in a way that I could develop their trust so they would let me help their families with my services.
As I’m a ‘thinker’, I decided to put a twist on Speech and Hearing Month. I realized that the voices of parents who have children with speech disorders deserve to be heard by myself and fellow S-LPs who also appreciate learning from parents.
Throughout May, I communicated with parents everywhere I possibly could. Trust me, I mean everywhere!
I spoke with many parents I knew personally and/or professionally. I visited online speech-language groups, read through the comments section on speech-language blogs that are popular with parents and checked out the questions that parents were asking on sites with forums and social media groups.
Here’s the question that I curiously asked numerous parents: “Why would you reach out to other moms to share your concerns and/or ask questions about your child’s speech-language development, instead of consulting a speech-language pathologist?”
There are some common themes I observed, based on the following responses I got from parents:
It’s faster, easier and more convenient to ask other moms their opinion or a question, especially online, in informal settings and during the evenings.
It takes commitment to make an appointment with an S-LP that may not be necessary, and there is extra commitment needed for follow-up appointments.
I know and trust moms but I don’t know any S-LPs.
Fellow moms share my perspective. They show compassion and understand what I’m going through with my child.
It’s not intimidating to hear parent-friendly messages that don’t have any confusing technical jargon.
Other trustworthy moms have a wealth of knowledge, especially if they have been through the process with a speech therapist. These moms can give you a realistic idea of what is normal, what warrants a visit to a professional and what to expect from seeing an S-LP.
Parents may also share important information about the effort required outside of the sessions.
Advice from moms is free.
I’m nervous that I could find out from an S-LP that my child may need help — or worse, that my child may be diagnosed with a speech disorder.
Since hearing these responses, I’ve taken steps to change my approach to communicating, the language I use and how I begin the process of connecting with parents who are getting to know me and my business. For example:
I’m being more open and sharing more about myself personally and my background.
I’m asking parents more questions so I have more opportunities to actively listen and understand their needs.
I’m focusing on children’s strengths first, as a key way to improve their speech-language needs.
I found valuable resources online that helped me to see what types of questions parents ask other parents:
You can also do a search for speech-language support groups for families and parents on Facebook. To boost your success within these communities, read through the group descriptions, rules, policies and a lot of other posts before posting in the group yourself. You can also contact the group administrator(s) before posting for their best tips on joining in.
Here are two popular websites that can connect you to speech-language blogs, where you can see the interesting comments that parents share:
Do you have ways of getting inside the minds of parents? If so, please share them in the comments!