SLPs, OTs, PTs, and teachers preparing for parent conferences usually focus on the child’s
progress, data graphs showing progress over time, and goals. Engaging a parent in a meaningful
conversation about their child can be neglected. Parents attend conferences because
they truly care about what is best for their child. It is difficult for some parents to
enter a school or private facility for a conference because of negative experiences or feelings
from their past. Creating a welcoming and friendly environment for parents is important
if we expect parents to continue attending conferences.
5 Simple Tips You Can Use Today in a Parent Conference
1. Be Engaging. Ask parents specific questions about their child as it relates to
therapy or activities the child enjoys outside of therapy. If parents do not engage
in a conversation, share some of the child’s positive experiences at school. This may
help parents feel more at ease to discuss their child. As the parents are talking and
answering questions about their child, be an active listener. Provide good eye contact,
positive body language, and take notes on a sheet of paper, IPAD, Surface Pro, or laptop.
2. Be Reassuring. Some parents have feelings of guilt because their child has a disability
or they may not feel confident in their child’s therapy plan. Always take time to talk
with parents about their concerns. Sometimes parents just need reassurance they are doing
what is best for their child. Parents need support too; be there for them. Provide parents
with resources that will help them cope with their child’s situation. Parents may feel
frustrated or angry with slow/minimal progress on their child’s goals and verbally lash out.
Do not take their hurtful words to heart. Many parents are seeking help, searching for
answers, and needing reassurance that their child is getting the best therapy possible by
someone who cares. Be Reassuring.
3. Be Caring. Being honest with parents about their child’s disorder, disability or
progress in therapy is very important, but the approach taken should be one of sensitivity.
If you are not careful, it can be easy to become complacent as a therapist not realizing
your words are powerful to parents. Choose your words carefully and honestly. Delicate
situations call for delicate responses. Parents never want to hear anything negative about
their child. Remember this bit of truth, it will serve you well. Be Caring.
4. Be Empowering. It is important for parents to fully understand their child’s disability
or disorder and services that are available to assist them. Educating parents on strategies
and supports that can be implemented at home can help the child carryover the therapy goals
into the home. If needed, take time to demonstrate the strategies providing “hands on”
learning opportunities for parents. Educate and empower parents to be active participants
in their child’s therapy. Be Empowering.
5. Be Cultivating. Cultivating a partner relationship with open lines of communication
between the therapists and parents can be extremely beneficial for a child’s progress in
therapy. Talk with parents about partnering in their child’s therapy and how this could be
successful. Some examples of partnering could include a daily/weekly/monthly communication
log, weekly/monthly phone calls, monthly/quarterly conferences, parent volunteering/observing
child. Opportunities are endless. Be Cultivating.
Wishing you the very best!