The 'who, where, when and how' of your therapy therefore depends very much on your needs. Traditionally, speech therapy was often a once a week appointment, mostly in a therapy room, sometimes with parents and teachers kept somewhat in the dark about the process.
In my practice I find I can make so much more of a difference to a child's language and literacy with the support of teachers and parents. It seems I'm not alone in my experience - the research clearly supports collaboration, and therapy that reaches into the child's daily life. So who is involved, where, when and how?
Who is involved? The research tells us that effective therapy is collaborative. When the therapist works closely with the parents and teachers who care for the child every day, that child has the support they need to practise their new skills daily.
Where does therapy happen? When therapy happens in a clinic room, the therapist has an extra job of working on how the child will transfer their new skills to their daily life at home and school. Gold standard programs such as the Lidcombe Program and the Hanen programs train parents and preschool teachers to do the 'therapy', because they are with the child in the places where he/she needs to communicate. For school age children, research shows the same principle applies - when specialist support is provided in the classroom, then skills are being taught and used right where they are needed. Some skills do need to be introduced in a quiet environment, sometimes in a group, sometimes individually, before they can be transferred to a busy classroom with background noise and other distractions.
When should therapy happen? Early intervention whenever possible gives the child the best chance of preventing difficulties from accumulating and providing strong building blocks for the next stage of development. The frequency of therapy is one of the keys to effective therapy and goes hand in hand with the 'who' and 'where'. Effective, evidence based programs are intense. They rely on daily practice, patience and motivation. When therapist, parents and teachers are consistent in their support of a struggling student then a child's skills and confidence can soar.
How is therapy done? Therapy can take the form of direct individual appointments, parent training, teacher training, group therapy, tele-therapy or any form that best meets the child's needs. Therapy goals are based on a thorough assessment of the child's needs. They are individualised to suit the strengths and weaknesses in the child's speech or language processing, which means no time or effort is wasted on tasks that do not affect improvement. Therapy is dynamic, even within one activity the therapist will shift the difficulty of the task to the correct challenge level for that moment, if something isn't working or could be more efficient, then changes are made accordingly. Motivation is key with any learning, so therapy tasks must be fun and achievable.
Speech Pathologists work in many different settings and specialise in different problems, so I recommend you consider the 'who, where, when and how' when deciding on the therapist that will best fit your needs. Finally, be sure to check your speech pathologist is registered with our professional body "Speech Pathology Australia" as a "Certified Practising Speech Pathologist" (CPSP). This means they are bound by our code of ethics and professional standards, and are using current evidence based methods in their practice.