A preschool/school teachers' guide to discussing speech, language and literacy concerns with parents

4 Mar, 2022
8 min read

A preschool/school teachers' guide to discussing speech, language and literacy concerns with parents

“When we miss things and don’t advise specialist services like speech pathology, parents get mad. When we pick things up and advise parents to seek out additional support, parents get mad. We can never get it right.”

This is the sentiment reported to speech pathologists by many preschool educators and teachers. It’s unfair, it’s frustrating and it sometimes leads to avoidance of tricky but important conversations. So how do we inform and advise about speech, language and literacy concerns? Here are 10 simple steps, we hope will aid you in this process.

  1. Trust your experience and expertise. You work with many children and know what is expected for their ages. If you don’t feel confident with this, review milestone guides and developmental norms such as this one: https://speechpathologyaustralia.cld.bz/Communication-Milestones-A4-sheets   

  1. Know that it’s in the best interests of the children you teach, to educate their parents about your observations. Regardless of a parent’s response, all you can do is inform and advise based on what you know.

  1. Have a face-to-face conversation or a phone call if you can’t catch them in person rather than communicating your concerns via email. 

  1. Outline your observations and concerns and ask if these outlined behaviours or difficulties are consistent with what the parent sees at home.

  1. Explain that you feel it would be beneficial for their child to see a speech pathologist for an assessment, so that they can obtain specific and accurate data about where the child is sitting in comparison to their peers.

  1. Explain that having an assessment does not lock them into therapy or necessarily mean the child will require therapy. It will merely inform them (and you) about how they can best be supported moving forward.

  1. If you are a preschool service, consider having a speech pathologist come in to conduct screeners. Parents can opt into this and then see if further assessment is required. 

  1. Know your local therapy services so that you have someone to refer to if the parent asks where to go. 

  1. Follow up with the parent a few weeks after your conversation and ask if they’ve made an appointment or if they need help finding a service. 

  1. If you have a speech pathologist already visiting your preschool or school, ask them about your observations of a particular child. Their advice may help you to feel more confident when entering a conversation with a parent. 

Conversations with parents about sensitive topics such as their child’s development can be hard. However, they are so worth having as we know the earlier a child receives support for their difficulties, the greater potential they will reach. And if your concerns are unwarranted, the parents will receive a report that tells them their child is developing as expected for their age and everyone has peace of mind. 

If you would like to provide further support to your team about what Speech Pathologists do, what communication skills are expected at what ages or how to refer to a Speech Pathologist, feel free to contact us. We can answer your questions via the phone or organise a time for one of our Speech Pathologists to come and present to your staff and answer your questions.

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