I was asked to compile a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for parents of children with whom I work–what I’d really like to tell them to make pediatric speech therapy a successful, collaborative venture.

So many things came to mind from tips that I am constantly repeating (such as practice the suggestions I leave with you) to wanting to pull back and give the parents a breather. I have to laugh at all the “homework” I gave parents before I had kids! Then I realized that I was overloading them and being impractical, especially to parents of a child with special needs whose schedule is jam packed for just one of their children. As I get older and wiser–I hope–I try to tell parents that it is all about balance and enjoying your child between rushing them to all the therapy, school, social skills sessions and dance and karate classes. So I begin and end with the points that I feel are the most important.

Do go on vacation–don’t feel guilty, you and your child need a break too.

Don’t ask your child, “What did you do in school today?” That question is very abstract and hard to answer. Instead, find a take-home  paper or object in his backpack, pull it out and start talking about it such as, “I like how you colored this yellow bird and he’s_____.” See if your child will fill in the blank as you start a sentence for him. It is much easier for a child with speech and language delays to have the thought started for them to complete than to call up all the events of the day and formulate them into sentences. Your child feels successful and so do you because you’ve heard a little nugget about their day.

Do practice the suggestions I have left you after my therapy session with your child. Give me feedback on how it went. Often parents will tell me it is too hard to fit in the practice or their child was resistive. Let me help you work through that and find a motivator for your child or easy and fun way to practice.

Do model language for your child as you go through your everyday experiences, whether it’s on a trip to New York or making dinner.  Children take in more language when it relates to what they are doing, experiencing, and seeing. For a child with speech and language delays you might say, “I’m getting out the big pot to fill it with water. Let’s open the end of the pasta box and empty it,” demonstrating words like open and end as you say them. Multi-sensory experiences reinforce learning–seeing, describing, feeling, smelling the pasta–in kids who may be weak in an area such as auditory skills. Work with your speech language pathologist to know what level of language you should be using with your child, according to their current abilities.

Don’t ask too many questions. Never “test” a child by saying, “What’s this?” or “What’s that?” Kids have to stop their train of thought , process the question and then formulate an answer. Questions are fine when used naturally in a situation such as “Do you want pancakes or cereal for breakfast?”

Do pause when you talk or read to your child with speech and language delays. Many children need extra time to process the language as well as formulate a reaction or response to what you are saying. I like to “hang out” on a page of a picture book, commenting on the illustrations or what I might like about that part of the story and then pause for the child to offer her thoughts as I did.

Do enjoy your precious child and take time out from all the “To Do” lists!