“I was waiting for my child’s early childhood educator to tell me that they had concerns”

Too often, this is what we are told by parents and carers when seeing a child for the first time at age 8 in our speech pathology clinics.

By then, the child often dislikes learning….feels they are a poor reader….avoids participation in the classroom ….. is a challenge for parents to get any homework completed….is disinterested in the classroom.

The list goes on!

It is vital for children to be identified as early as possible with speech, language and communication difficulties in order for them to access the support they need.

Support provided in the early years can prevent the cascade of social and emotional difficulties that sadly, often follow, if these difficulties are left unaddressed until the early Primary School years.

Yes, it can be a difficult topic for Early Childhood Educators to broach with parents and there may be a range of reactions from parents.

That doesn’t mean the conversation should never happen.

Here are some tips for Early Childhood Educators when scheduling a meeting a family to discuss concerns about speech, language and communication skills.

Parent/Carers may have noticed some of these concerns themselves

If so, encourage the parent to share his or her observations and concerns with you.  Acknowledge these concerns and reassure the parent/s that you will work together to come up with a plan to support the child’s development.

Parents may feel defensive

Hearing concerns being raised about your child’s development can be overwhelming and may trigger defensive responses from parents.  Educators can assist by remaining neutral and positive in the interaction and listening to the parent.  Let the parent express their concerns and feelings and acknowledge their perspective.

Follow Up

After the initial conversation, follow up with families to see how they are doing and whether they have any questions or concerns.  Not all families will be ‘ready’ to hear the information that you need to share with them at the time you decide to share it.  If you are consistently available and have a positive relationships with the family, the parents/carers will know you are there to confide in when and if needed.

Be Informed

Educate yourself on what speech, language and communication skill development looks like, what the signs of delay may be and what are the most appropriate ways to support the child who shows these signs of delay.

Our Learn2Communicate website is the perfect place for you to start https://learn2communicate.com.au/ and our social media pages are also full of evidence based information and helpful tips for educators and parents. https://www.instagram.com/learn2communicate/

Beware of common myths https://www.thespeechdynamic.com/fact-or-fiction/

Arm yourself with information so that you feel informed and equipped to answer questions that parents may have.  Be honest when you do not know the answer and offer to find out for the parent by consulting with your local Speech Pathologist or contacting us via our website.

Having ‘that’ conversation can be challenging but…

It is so important.

Parents are often waiting for an educator to raise these concerns with them before seeking advice from a speech pathologist.

Too often, children don’t get the help they need until far later than optimal because these conversations are avoided.

Early Identification and Intervention is always best so please have these conversations with parents/carers.  Don’t avoid them.  By listening actively, using positive language, providing specific examples and observations, offering support and consistent follow up, educators can work with families to support the child’s development and success.