Make sure your child has been referred to the school SLP. Many schools will automatically refer a child with Down syndrome to the school SLP. In some cases a parent request for a referral to the SLP may be necessary. You may be required to sign a release form to allow the school SLP to see your child. This should be done as early as possible in the school year.
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Establish a relationship. Find out the name and contact information of your school SLP. Call her to introduce yourself and give her your contact information. Let her know how much you appreciate her involvement. Communicate that you’re really pleased she will be working with your child.
By October make contact with the SLP again. Find out what service she will be providing. Will she (or the communicative disorders assistant) see your child for therapy? When does she anticipate therapy will start? Will she see your child every week? Will the sessions be individual sessions or group sessions? How long will the sessions be?
Most SLPs welcome a parent observing therapy sessions. Once the assessment is complete, arrange to observe a therapy session. At a minimum, observe at least once each term. If you are able to observe more often, great.
Find out what you can do to practice at home. You and your SLP are a team. Regular practice updates and specific activities are most helpful. Home practice results in greater carryover of skills and faster progress. This is something your SLP will celebrate with you.
Make contact mid-year. Schedule an interview with the SLP at parent-teacher interview times. If that is not possible, call or email to keep the lines of communication open. Discuss what’s working, what’s challenging, and how home practice is going.
Request that the SLP attend your child’s IEP/IPP meetings. Speech and language development is one of the most important goals for most children with Down syndrome. Input from the SLP at the IEP/IPP meeting is important. Once you learn the date of the IEP/IPP meeting, ask if the SLP will be there. She will need lead time to schedule her attendance.
Communicate any hearing issues or concerns to your SLP. Many hearing tests are done outside of school at a hospital or ENT office. Ask for a copy of the audiogram and give a copy to the school. Teachers, assistants, and the SLP should be advised of any hearing test results or changes in hearing status.
Ask for a year end report every year. It is customary for the SLP to write a year end report for each student on her caseload. Let your SLP know you would like a copy of any formal reports. You are the case manager for your child’s health and education. Assemble a file of all reports.
We usually remember the classroom teacher at Christmas and year end. We often forget the SLP. Your school SLP will really appreciate receiving a card at Christmas and at the end of the year, thanking her for working with your child.
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Jill Hicks is the mother of a child with Down syndrome and a speech-language pathologist. Her passion is to empower others to help people with Down syndrome.