Tips and Resources4 MINUTE READ

The Importance of Parental Involvement in Speech Therapy

One of the most powerful tools your child has to improve their speech and language is also the most accessible: you. 

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of caregiver involvement in a child’s speech therapy. Numerous research studies have shown that when parents and caregivers play an active role in their child’s intervention--as opposed to being a passive observer--children make much more progress toward their therapy goals. 

This might feel easier said than done, of course. When a child is diagnosed with a speech or language problem, families enter a new and unfamiliar world. From evaluations to treatment plans to therapy exercises, it can feel overwhelming. It may be tempting to rely on a speech-language pathologist, or speech therapist, to “fix” the problem.

Speech therapists are experts in clinical diagnoses and treatments. But you are the expert on your child!

But while speech therapists will use specific techniques and strategies to improve your child’s communication, there’s no substitute for the unique opportunity you have to practice with your child at home. Speech therapists are experts in clinical diagnoses and treatments. But you are the expert on your child! And you're the one who spends the most time with them.

At the end of the day, it’s really no different than learning to play an instrument like a guitar. Weekly lessons will definitely help you learn scales, strumming techniques, and power chords. But if you don’t practice at home outside of those lessons, it’ll take you a lot longer to master a grand rendition of "Stairway to Heaven." 

The parent's role in speech therapy

When children receive speech therapy in a school or clinic, sessions often involve only the speech therapist and the child (or group of children). The speech therapist will do their best to update the caregiver in the clinic lobby or during school conferences. But this traditional format doesn't allow the in-depth coaching and skill-building it takes to get caregivers truly involved in their child’s speech and language goals.

As mentioned above, research has shown that caregivers should be key players in their child’s intervention. There are several reasons for this:

You know your child best

Speech therapists strive to get to know your child: their personality, preferred learning style, and how they handle problems. However, a speech therapist can never replace your intuitive connection with your child. You know your child's personality and temperament best--as well as when a temper tantrum is looming! By working closely with a speech therapist, you can help develop a treatment approach perfectly tailored to your little one.

Learning happens all day, every day

Speech therapists only have limited time with your child every week. Whether a child is learning to use more words, pronounce a speech sound, or understand simple sentences, these new skills should be practiced and reinforced every day. Caregivers have the advantage of spending much more time with their children. And considering that children learn to communicate during everyday activities and conversations, no one is better positioned to do that than you.

Speech therapy doesn’t require a desk and a chair. You can use bathtime, playtime, mealtime, and even trips to the store to make progress on your child’s speech and language goals. When children see a speech therapist, they gain valuable skills and knowledge. But when they interact with you at home, during daily routines, they’re able to put that new knowledge into practice.

Learning is more effective in a comforting environment

Many people get uncomfortable when walking into a medical office or therapy clinic. There’s a clinical feeling that can make children feel uneasy about their surroundings. Working with you at home, in an environment that’s natural and familiar, is a stress-free way for kids to practice the new skills they’ve learned at therapy. It’s also a reason more and more families are turning to online speech therapy.  

What does the research say about parent involvement in speech therapy?

A study conducted by two researchers from Vanderbilt University looked at how well “parent-implemented intervention” worked among groups of parents trained to promote their child’s communication. Here were some key results from the study:

  • Parents were able to understand and learn the strategies taught by the speech therapists, and use them when interacting with their child.

  • Parents had a positive effect on their child’s communication development. As a result, children showed improvement in their verbal and nonverbal communication skills, including understanding, vocabulary, grammar, and how often they communicated.

  • Parents were just as effective at helping their child as speech therapists were. In fact, when it came to understanding language and grammar, parents were actually more effective than the therapists.

  • Children with a variety of language difficulties, including language impairment, autism spectrum disorder, and developmental delay, also made substantial progress when their parents were involved.

As this and other studies show, empowering caregivers to work directly with their children can significantly improve their child’s speech skills. While parental involvement can't replace ongoing speech therapy with an experienced speech therapist, it enables kids to make faster progress and reach their goals sooner.

Sign up for a consultation
Discuss your communication needs with a speech therapist for free
Get started

More from

Watch learning jump (leap! spring! hop!) from your sessions into the real world.

Get started