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Sending a welcome note has become a part of my routine as a school-based SLP. I started sending one as a way to introduce myself to the families of new students and say hello to those returning. It has always been well received, so I have not stopped!
What I include in my note- I add details like my phone number and extension, as well as my email. I try to keep it short, especially with all the papers sent home at the start of the school year. This means I also like for it to stand out, so if color printing is not an option try colored paper.
So, why do I keep sending a welcome letter home? Because most of the families I work with do not understand their child’s speech-language diagnosis. My hope with this letter is that it is not just another letter that gets a glance and then it’s thrown away. I hope that it becomes an open invitation for parents to ask questions beyond the walls of an IEP meeting.
A lecture I attended at the ASHA convention in 2016 mentioned the lack of understanding parents have regarding speech and language terms. The lecture was titled: Caregiver Perceptions of Diagnostic Labels Applied to Their Children with Language/Reading Impairments. What struck me was the number of terms we have for different disorders and how that can be difficult for parents to search for ways to help their children at home. Below are some of the highlights from this lecture. Evidence Based Practice (EBP) resources referenced below.
•Caregivers of children diagnosed with a language impairment are concerned with their child’s language difficulty
•Caregivers may not trust or understand the information provided by their child’s SLP
•In general, parents appear satisfied with the services provided
•Caregivers would like a clear, defined diagnostic label
◦Caregivers frequency associate having a diagnosis for their child with having a solution to help their child
•Provide complete, clear information
•Give support and provide follow-up and outside resources/materials
◦Ask questions to determine caregiver understanding of the diagnosis as well as expectations from the intervention being provided
◦Continue to share information and repeat information as often as needed
Bishop, D.V.M. (2014). Ten questions about terminology for children with unexplained languageproblems. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 49(4), 381-415.doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12101
Porter, K.L. (2015). Caregiver perceptions of speech-language pathologist (SLPs) communication: Examining how SLPs talk with caregivers about child language disorders. (Doctoral Dissertation, Louisiana State University). Retrieved from http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-10272015-124138/
Porter K., Ash A., Redmond S., & Oetting J. (2016). Caregiver Perceptions of Diagnostic Labels Applied to Their Children with Language/Reading Impairments. Paper presented at the annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Philadelphia, PA.