The parent-therapist relationship can be a tricky one, even with the most easy-going parents. You want to be personable, professional, kind, honest…the list of desirable qualities goes on and on, but how do you achieve and maintain that relationship? Listed below are three components I strive to employ in all of my relationships with parents.
- Many of the students we work with have communication impairments. Therefore, what you work on in therapy or in the classroom may not be communicated when the student gets home. How is the parent supposed to know what a great job (or bad job) their child did in school if the student is unable to tell them? For some students, I will send home a quick email if their child has a particularly great day. This email may only say, “We worked on conversation today and Johnny independently said ‘hello’ to a classmate for the first time. I am so proud of him!” Other students have weekly emails sent home explaining what was worked on and how he or she did. If you start sending a weekly email home, be aware that this MAY become an expectation for that parent. Also be aware that because you send home weekly communications, you are setting yourself up for a better rapport with the parent when a meeting comes up or a difficult situation arises. For students who are older and may be trying to learn how to email, text, or call, I try to incorporate that communication into therapy. If a student is working on texting, I have him text his parents to say what has been worked on. It means so much more to the parents to hear how their child did in school/therapy from their child than from a teacher or therapist.
- Think of how overwhelming the data, jargon, objectives, waivers, transitions, etc. can be for parents in a meeting. You want what is best for your child, but how are you supposed to know what is right when you don’t understand the mass of information being presented? We always talk about presenting information verbally and visually to students, why don’t we do the same for our co-workers and parents? When you spend an extra 10 minutes to make a graph showing the progress your student has made on objectives, parents take notice. They understand what the visual graph represents and understand better when you are explaining advancing an objective or taking a few steps back with lack of progress.
- This is self-explanatory, but incredibly necessary. If you say you will do something, do it! But don’t stop there. After you complete the task you talked with the parent about, let them know what you did and what you found out, if applicable. It will add a few minutes but it shows the parents that you stick to your word and take the extra time to follow-up with them.
Overall, I find these three main components to be extremely useful in improving or enhancing in my parent-therapist relationships, and I hope you may find them beneficial as well.
Author: Elizabeth Wilson, SLP