For parents knowing how to choose a Speech-Language Pathologist can be tricky. The diagnosis of autism often involves language delays, causing parents to wonder what steps they should take in terms of intervention. Naturally, every parent wants the best for his/her child, including in therapy.
A Speech-Language Pathologist can help your child learn to communicate more effectively. But how can you be certain you have chosen the right S-LP? What are the things you should look for and what are the right questions to ask?
Things to consider in choosing a Speech-Language Pathologist
This might sound like a given but you need to choose a therapist that has experience in working with children. This kind of specialist will know how to approach the child so he/she feels comfortable. Therapy should look like play, especially for young children.
Experience is essential. A knowledgeable Speech-Language Pathologist should interact with the child through play, opting for subtle strategies to improve communication. He/she should involve the parents in the intervention. A transdisciplinary approach always guarantees the best results, and he/she should include parents at all times.
A good therapist knows that parents play a major role in the therapeutic progress the child will make. The S-LP should teach parents strategies to use at home, taking parental input and comfort level into account.
From a pragmatic perspective, you can get referrals or research for Speech-Language Pathologists online, looking at your province’s College of Speech-Language Pathologists. You can also ask your child’s paediatrician or the school counsellor for a recommendation. Other parents are also a good resource. Once you have found a therapist, be sure to inquire about certification and additional education on autism intervention.
Questions to ask when choosing a Speech-Language Pathologist :
When choosing a Speech-Language Pathologist it is normal to ask questions. It might be a good idea to start by asking about the experience that they have.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the methods used and the reasoning for choosing these. The S-LP should also be able to provide evidence supporting her/his recommendations and point you toward resources where you can learn more.
These are some questions you might ask:
- Who will work with my child?
- Often, the Speech-Language Pathologist is part of a transdisciplinary team, which includes a speech therapy assistant, a behavioural therapist, occupational therapist, educator and so on.
- What are the primary objectives of intervention?
- You will work on these together but as a general rule the principal aim is to improve communication and social interaction. In some children, feeding and swallowing issues might also be addressed.
- How many years of experience do you have with autistic children?
- This is not necessarily relevant, but it can help you get an idea about how knowledgeable the SLP is in this field. Follow up with some discussion about previous cases and outcomes.
- What is your treatment philosophy?
- You are putting your trust in a new person, so it is important to know this. A good therapist will work with the family. He/she will always take the child’s needs into account.
- Do you use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)?
- This is important, as it is beneficial for many autistic children at the beginning of therapy and even later on.
- How do you gain the trust of a child?
- Some children require time to trust a new person. A good therapist will respect the child and his/her uncertainty, putting his/her emotional well-being in first place. Therapy should be offered through a lens of caring and empathy.
Practical questions are important as well:
- What does the initial assessment entail?
- Can I use my insurance to pay for therapy?
- Are your services available right now? Or do I have to join a waiting list?
- How many hours of therapy are recommended per week? And how long is a therapy session?
- Are parents allowed to observe therapy sessions?
- How is the intervention plan established? Are we allowed to offer suggestions?
- How is the progress the child has made assessed?
Do not hesitate to ask as many questions as possible, as this process will help you choose a Speech-Language Pathologist for your child. It never hurts to follow your instinct, as parents often have a gut feeling telling them they found the right person for the job.