I Don’t Like My Child’s Speech Therapist

I know that many of my readers are here because they are interested in learning more about their child’s speech and language development. I also know that some of you are here because your child has a known speech or language difficulty and your child is likely receiving speech services. If your child IS receiving speech therapy, most likely things are going well. But what if you don’t like your child’s speech therapist?

I recently read a discussion in a forum on another site where many mothers were in agreement over their (extreme) DISLIKE for their speech therapist. The original poster was upset that the speech therapist acted like a know-it-all and didn’t respect the mother’s expert knowledge of her own child. This all resulted in the mother calling the therapist “uppity”.

I hated it. It made me incredibly sad to hear people bashing professionals from my own field. But, the overarching theme of the discussion that medical professionals do not respect the knowledge and opinions of someone’s very personal experience is unfortunately not new a new idea. I have experienced the same feeling of not being heard or validated by medical professionals many times in my own life. I just hoped that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) weren’t grouped into that uppity professional category. Apparently, they sometimes are. So…what can be done?

Well, first, as an SLP, I can say I’m sorry! SLPs all need to do better everyday, serving their clients AND their families in a sensitive and open way, and understanding that each person is the expert of their own experience. As a parent though, I know we can’t change other people, and sometimes we just need ideas and perspective to help manage a difficult situation. In that light, here are some things that you, as a parent, can do to improve your working relationship with your child’s SLP.

1) Communicate What Works Best For You

SLPs are trained to work with clients, but not always their families. While SLP graduate programs are making more efforts to include interacting with parents and families in training, it is (sadly) not always covered. SLPs may be more or less experienced in working with families and may feel more or less comfortable engaging with families naturally. So, tell your SLP what you want.

Are you the parent who wants to drop off your child and let the SLP do her thing? You may be happy to take your child to speech therapy, but may not feel that it’s a huge issue for your child at this time. Communicate that to your SLP.

OR would you prefer to take part in some or all of the therapy session? Would you like to have homework to maximize progress and be informed very specifically of how your child is doing? Are you very concerned about your child’s speech or language development or a little overwhelmed by it all? Communicate that too.

Know yourself and be clear in a conversation with your SLP what works best for you.

2) Seek Support

SLPs vary in their experience and sensitivity when sharing difficult news with parents. If your SLP says something that rubs you the wrong way, try to listen to the actual information and ignore the delivery of that information. Keep in mind that this can be a difficult time for you and your family. A lot of what your SLP has to say about your child’s speech and language difficulties may not be what you want to hear and you may be feeling a little sensitive (rightfully so!). So, be gentle with yourself and tell your SLP if you need a to take a break from a difficult conversation. Then, grab a friend to give you a hug and seek out some support!

Working through all of the emotions related to having a child with special needs is not easy, but any support you can get will help you and your child on this journey. Your SLP may have other families in similar situations that they can connect you with locally or may also have found some support online at places like Language Delay Network or on Facebook. There’s really nothing like talking to other parents in the same shoes.

3) Take Yourself Out Of The Equation

SLPs are just people too, with their own unique personalities. You are now involved in this very personal, yet professional relationship, but your personalities may or may not click. Try to take a step back and take yourself out of it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my child like this SLP?
  • Does this SLP seem to treat my child well?
  • Is my child making progress?

If the answer is yes to at least the last two questions, you may want to stick it out. Those two answers are really the most important.

4) Give It Time

SLPs need to build rapport and a relationship with your child. Depending on your child, opening up with someone new and doing something like talking, can take time. Not to mention the time it can take to know and communicate how involved you want to be in  therapy and to work through your own emotions of all that is new to you in this process.  So, don’t rush.

BUT, if you’ve already…

  1. Communicated what works best for you,
  2. Sought out support,
  3. Evaluated your CHILD’S relationship with your speech therapist, and
  4. Given it all time to evolve,

AND you still aren’t happy…THEN you know it’s time to switch therapists.

Before switching, talk with your current therapist. Be honest and explain what’s not working. Ask for copies of any documents (ex: evaluation/assessment reports, progress reports) you don’t already have so that you’ll have that information to share with the next therapist. With the knowledge that you’ve done the right thing for your child, you can start looking for someone new with a clear conscience and open mind. If you don’t know where to start, ask around. There have to be other parents you know who have a speech therapist they love. Right? I hope so!

Have you ever had a difficult time with your child’s teacher or therapist? How did you handle it?

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4 Responses
  1. Lacy Hicks says:

    I have to say I love this post. I have expierenced both sides of this. My 1st son has autism and recieved speech therapist. She was GREAT! She listened to everything we had to say and gave possible approaches to what might work for us. One thing I thought helped the relationship work so well is she really made us feel important in his therapy. I never realized how important this was until after his services were complete and our second son started speech with the same company but a different therapist. We felt as if she was allowing him to run the show. If he got up from the learning area she did not seem to correct him. And the worst part was she never talked to us about his therapy! We are very involved parents and KNOW 1st hand that speech therapy doesn’t work by somebody else coming in once a week. It has to be inccoprated through the child’s daily life. We tried all the steps listed and nothing seemed to work. We talked to our service coordinator and soon got a new therapist which we felt met our son’s and our needs and request much better. I believe the relationship with the parents and the therapist have to be strong so the child sees that there is a unity there and he is going to have to work not only during the 30-50 mins the therapist is there but make it part of the childs life. Thanks so much for this post Kim…LOVED it!

  2. SP_Harmony says:

    I am an Australian SLP.
    You are referring here to the ‘therapeutic relationship’ (aka helping alliance, the therapeutic alliance, or the working alliance) and the psychology profession has known about it for many years! (See the wikipedia page for a description and references.)
    Unfortunately speech pathology doesn’t seem to be a profession that has picked up on this concept and its significance.
    Wikipedia states: “Research on the statistical power of the therapeutic relationship now reflects more than 1,000 findings”. Doesn’t evidence based practice suggest that this is crucial for us to implement??? We know in our hearts that it’s important, the literature tells us it’s important, families won’t attend if it’s absent, kids/people won’t make progress if it’s ignored… it’s up to the professions to do better.

    • Kim says:

      Hi, Harmony! Welcome to Little Stories and thank you for your insightful comment. I’m so happy that you acknowledged how important the relationship between families and therapists is to a child’s progress. In this post I wanted to focus on the relationship from parents perspectives, but I’m also working on a post on the same topic geared to professionals. It’s an important topic. Just like language doesn’t happen in a vacuum, neither does therapy, right?!
      Kim recently posted..I Don’t Like My Child’s Speech TherapistMy Profile

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