Family-Based Speech & Language Therapy

Excerpted from the Briggs and Associates Newsletter, August 2004

Although we have always had families as integral members of our team, Margaret will begin helping family members assume more of a lead role.  In the family-based model of speech and language therapy, we believe the families are the true agents of change.  We, as the therapist, assume the role of coach.  In this philosophy we believe that family members are ideal, natural teachers.  We assist families by sharing our knowledge of how language develops and what to do when language is delayed.  This knowledge is combined with the family’s understanding of the unique needs and abilities of them and their child.  This model is quite different from “parent education” because strategies, goals, and activities are jointly developed by the therapist and the family.  We don’t begin with a predetermined program or package that we give to everyone.  Our work becomes quite organic, evolving as change occurs.

Margaret has been refining, researching, and teaching this model during her tenure as a professor.  She began developing and teaching the model more than 15 years ago.  Now she is excited about returning with this information to the Pasadena community, expanding and enhancing our services to young children and their families.

Some key components of a family-based model include:

  1. Identify strategies family members are already using successfully
  2. Suggest new strategies to further increase communication
  3. Recognize contexts—determine what is already going on at home into which we can infuse our speech and language goals and strategies
  4. Determine
    • Why—what is the specific goal or outcome desired?
    • Who—will serve as language “facilitator” or teacher?
    • Where—is the best place for communication to take place (e.g., outside in the water, while looking at a book)?
    • When—is the best time for communication to take place (e.g., early in the morning, right after a snack)?
    • How—what exactly will you do? What strategies are best?
    • How often—once a week? 5 minutes three times a day?
    • What—activities or materials will you use?
  5. Establish small steps for change
  6. Select “homework” assignments until the next appointment

In a family-based model “family” means—parents, grandparents, siblings, babysitters, teachers, other therapists, neighbors—anyone who regularly interacts with and can help support communication development.  For instance, we have two brothers now who are helping their younger sibling pronounce words more clearly.  We have a grandmother and an aunt who are joining the team to work on language with a little boy who has autism.  Communication is definitely a family affair.  Our goal is to collaborate with families to make communication happen easily and everywhere.  And to make communication fun and rewarding for everyone!

© Margaret H. Briggs, PhD Briggs and Associates, APSLPC, 2005

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