Working as a school-based occupational, physical, or speech therapist is different than working in a medical setting. In a hospital, nursing home, or rehab center, it’s great to have your patient’s family there to be supportive. But in a school-based setting, having parents or guardians involved is essential. If parents are involved, it can have the following benefits:
Helps children stay motivated: Even if you have a good relationship with the students you are working with, parents know their children best. They know what works to keep their child motivated and working hard.
Keeps everyone on the same page: You never want parents to feel out of the loop and not know what’s going on with therapy. Think of parents as part of the team. Parents should be updated on how their child is progressing.
Reinforces therapy at home: Parents and caregivers can maximize the benefits of therapy. As a school-based therapist, you might only spend 60 to 120 minutes each week with your students. But parents are around their children a lot more than that. Although every interaction will not be about targeting goals, parents can reinforce therapy at home.
Increases chances of success: Everyone needs a cheerleader on their side. Although therapists and teachers can encourage students, kids also need their parents or guardians to provide support and assistance.
Creates a collaborative environment: When you get parents involved, it makes them feel they are actively engaged in their child’s therapy and success. But a collaborative environment does not only benefit parents; it also helps you. Parents may have unique insight on how to work effectively with their child. They know what works and what doesn’t.
How to Facilitate a Great Relationship with Parents and Caregivers
So you know having parents involved in school-based therapy is helpful, but how do you do it?
Respect differences: You’re not going to have the same parenting philosophy as every parent you meet. It’s important to understand; parents may have cultural, social, or religious views that are very different from yours. You don’t have to agree with anyone else’s views. But you should respect their them.
Talk regularly: Make it a priority to establish regular communication with parents or guardians. Consider talking to parents twice a month to give an update on how therapy is progressing. How often you choose to speak with parents may vary based on the size of your caseload, but it needs to be on a regular basis.
Value their perspective: Parents have a unique perspective in that they know their child best. You’re the therapist, but a parent’s perspective on what their child needs should also be valued.
Provide specifics: If you want a parent to work with their child at home and assign “homework,” make sure you talk specifics. Don’t assume parents know what you’re working on.
Be realistic: Not every family can spend the same amount of time working with their child at home. Some parents work many hours a week or have other family members to care for. Be realistic about the expectations you set.