Stronger together: family, school and speech pathologist

When providing support for students with speech, language and communication difficulties, there should be a strong connection between what happens at home and what happens at school. This linking of home and school helps students develop skills and supports their learning.

When two or more people are working together towards a shared goal, it is called collaboration or collaborative practice. Collaboration is essential for student learning. The student, family, speech pathologist, school and community will see the best results when everyone involved is working collaboratively. It is important that this collaboration is culturally responsive and sensitive.

A whole school approach to supporting students needs collaboration. An effective whole school approach involves all members of the school community and includes specific programs, approaches and policies that connect with all aspects of school life and are supported by everyday practices.

Ways of working together: family, school, speech pathologist and community

There are different ways that students, families, schools, speech pathologists and community can work together. A speech pathologist may work directly with one student, with a small group or with the whole class or even the whole school.

The way a speech pathologist works with a particular student can change over time, depending on the student’s age and needs, as well as the needs of the school and family. When a child is starting school, it’s important for parents and carers to let the school know about the student’s past experiences with speech pathology.

Speech, language and communication skills are important for student connection to culture and identity. Recognising the connection between communication and culture will have positive impacts on student wellbeing and inclusion at school. Community leaders or members of organisations such as the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group can be an important resource and support.

The best outcomes are achieved when everyone involved with supporting the student’s speech, language and communication works together as a team.

Two teachers working outside with four students around a table

What I need to know to work together with others

Parents and carers - the first teachers in a child’s life

As a parent or carer you have a vital role to play in the development of your child's speech, language and communication skills. Strong speech, language and communication skills are important for home and for school. Speech, language and communication are the building blocks for learning to read, write and count. Students need language skills to monitor their own feelings, communicate effectively with others and build peer friendships.

Helping your child with their speech, language and communication skills is most effectively done as part of a team. It is essential that parents and carers are part of this team. You will see stronger results for your child when you, the school and the speech pathologist work together as a team.

Working as part of a collaborative team may be a new experience for many people. Below are some useful points about what you can do, share and learn as part of a collaborative team.

● Discuss your child's speech, language and communication needs with the teacher or principal before the child first starts school or changes schools.

● Establish a strong connection with everyone involved in supporting your child so you can work collaboratively. This may include school staff, community members or organisations.

● If your child is seeing a speech pathologist, talk to them about how they can collaborate with you and with the school.

● To avoid confusion and misunderstandings everyone involved with supporting a student’s speech, language and communication skills will need to agree on key terms and what they mean.

● Ensure you understand key terms and always speak up and ask questions if things are unclear.

● Be an active participant and listener.

● Recognise your strengths and the strengths of others.

● Be available and make time to attend meetings.

● Trust the other members of the team.

● Respect all contributions.

● Communicate your feelings and ideas, ask for help if you aren't confident communicating.

● Ask for an interpreter if needed.

● Contribute to goals for your child.

● Work with your child to support goals at home.

● Ask your child about school - what’s easy? what‘s difficult?

● Your child's past experiences, interests and needs.

● Your present and future goals for your child.

● Goals from a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, if applicable.

● Other support or therapy your child may be receiving.

● What works best for your child when they are learning new things.

● How your child uses things they’ve learnt in the classroom when they are at home.

● Information about your child's behaviour and behaviour change.

● Your concerns about your child's progress.

● Things, people, events that may influence your child's behaviour and learning at school.

● Past reports, including assessments from specialists and allied health clinicians.

● Strategies for home.

● Services and resources available at school and in the community.

● New terms and ways to work with others focussing on building your child's skills.

● Your child's strengths and weaknesses in the classroom.

● Ways to support your child to transition between classes, school years and schools. 

Examples of collaboration between family, student, speech pathologist and school

Supporting all students

● Speech pathologist works with the school community to support a whole school approach to supporting all students’ speech, language and communication.

● Speech pathologist and teacher work together in the classroom and with families to support all students’ speech, language and communication skills.

Supporting individual students

● Family, speech pathologist and teacher share observations, concerns and strategies to help with planning and making goals.

● Speech pathology and educational goals are shared so that they can be reinforced in the classroom, during therapy and at home.

● Family, speech pathologist and school meet regularly to discuss the student’s goals, support and progress.

● Class content and programs are shared with the speech pathologist and family. Speech pathology resources and programs are shared with the school and family. This will provide a chance for pre-teaching of vocabulary, concepts and language structures by the speech pathologist. It will help link what happens in speech pathology sessions, at home and back into the classroom and vice versa.

● The speech pathologist could observe the classroom context and give feedback and discuss strategies with the teacher and family.

● The speech pathologist, teacher and family discuss any support and adjustments that may be needed in the classroom.

● The speech pathologist provides a written report to the learning and support team, or if possible, attend a learning and support team meeting in person, by phone or online.

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