Parents As Therapists

Adrienne Rains Rogers, M.A.
CCC Speech-Language Pathologist, Clinic Director
Tulsa Scottish Rite Clinic for
Childhood Language Disorders

Involving the whole family in the process of speech-language therapy has many advantages.

About 16 years ago, the clinicians at the Tulsa Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders designed a short-term parent-training program for our youngest children. The Parent-Child Program was our first parent-therapist program. Parents of children age three and under were trained in language development techniques. When the parents were trained, the therapy techniques could be applied repeatedly throughout each day. The children made excellent progress, and about half no longer needed help when their names came up on the then lengthy long-term therapy waiting list. The Parent-Child Program was so successful that the concept was expanded to include therapy for all our clients. Home Therapy Management, an innovative family-centered approach, was first implemented in June, 1992. Parents are their children’s own therapists, with the clinician providing guidance and support. Since short, daily practices maximize progress, parents are usually in the best position to provide the therapy. Sometimes a parent cannot be a therapist, and a grandparent or other family member fills that role. Whoever is working with the child attends sessions where they learn how to work with the child. Because daily practicing occurs at home, most families need to attend the clinic only about once every two weeks.

Rather than watching therapy from an observation room, the parent participates directly in the sessions. The clinician involves the parent in selecting goals and then demonstrates activities for parents to do at home. Parents often conduct therapy activities during clinic sessions with feedback from clinicians. Part of a session routinely is devoted to problem-solving techniques in order to make home therapy sessions more effective.

Since reading and oral language problems tend to run in families, there is often more than one child in the family who needs help. One benefit of Home Therapy Management is that all the children in the family who need help are seen by one clinician. Guidance is given to a parent about each child’s program.

Parents frequently apply their new teaching skills to other children in the family who are not identified as clients. The younger brother of a current client, for example, will not need to be seen in the clinic. His mother already has implemented the reading program which she learned at the clinic to use with her daughter. Her son is now successful in school and is not likely to need additional help.

What do parents have to say about our approach to therapy? Results from questionnaires sent to parents are overwhelmingly positive. When asked how satisfied parents were with our therapy services, 97% of respondents reported being "very satisfied." Many parents said that they particularly liked being closely involved in their child’s program.

The Tulsa Scottish Rite Clinic therapy program benefits families in many ways. Since there are no fees for any services, there is no financial burden on the family as a result of therapy. Clinic parents frequently express gratitude for the services, which most would not be able to afford in the private sector. In addition to relief from financial commitment, families appreciate how home therapy fits within their everyday lives. Since most are adequately served by attending the clinic once every two weeks, the difficulty of transportation and scheduling around everyone’s activities is minimized.

Children benefit immeasurably from the daily practice and from the improved teaching skills their parents develop. Parents gain in their own confidence as they learn to teach. They develop a thorough understanding of their child’s problem as well as the mechanics of the task, allowing them to find their own creative ways to practice. Because of their increased knowledge, parents are better able to communicate with the child’s teachers. The benefits snowball as the parents’ new skills generalize to other children and with other learning tasks, including schoolwork. The therapy session provides special time together which can deepen the parent-child relationship.

Since clients are seen less often at the clinic, more children can be served. Clinicians currently are able to serve about four times as many children, and the waiting list has been reduced from over two years to about five months.

There is an old saying that goes something like, "Give a person a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime." Tulsa Scottish Rite Clinic parents develop skills to help all their children for years to come. In the words of one grateful parent, "Thank you for helping Kyle and his family! You have better equipped us for LIFE!"

Adrienne Rains Rogers
has been the director of the Tulsa Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders for 19 years. She is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than 25 years experience. She received her B.S. degree from the University of Texas and her M.A. degree from the University of Oklahoma. Ms. Rogers holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She was awarded the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation’s Outstanding Clinical Achievement Award for the State of Oklahoma in 1993.