Neurodiversity-Affirming Practices & Providers: Information for Parents & ProfessionalsJan 04, 2023
If you’re a speech-language pathologist, there are changes you can make to the way you practice or how you run your practice as a private practice owner to become more neurodiversity-affirming. If you’re a parent, there are questions you can ask when seeking services to ensure a clinic or provider is neurodiversity-affirming.
How to become a more Neurodiversity-Affirming Provider/Practice
- Consider changing your intake forms to focus on strengths and each child’s interests. No more focusing on milestones, especially for gestalt language processors. Ask questions about a child’s special interests, strengths, play preferences, and family life/goals.
- Be open to admitting that you don’t know something. Invest time into unlearning harmful practices and learning about practices that are neurodiversity-affirming. Listen to neurodivergent voices and experiences. Consider taking continuing education courses, and receiving clinical mentorship.
- Consider changing the way you assess children. Only use standardized assessments if absolutely necessary. Instead, focus on language samples, parent interviews, home video analysis and play observations.
- Ensure that evaluations are 100% child-led. This is possible with all ages. Play and language development often mirror each other. As play moves and evolves language follows.
- Work closely with occupational therapists when possible and make sure you and all therapists (if you’re a practice owner) understand sensory needs. Most neurodivergent children need sensory support. Language movement often only happens when we address the whole child and the whole body. Understanding sensory needs and how to meet them during your sessions is key to providing quality services for neurodivergent individuals.
- Include parents/caregivers as much as possible. Parents are the experts on their own children. Don’t keep them in the dark. What happens at home and what is understood, taught, and modeled by parents will make the biggest impact on the child.
What questions can I ask providers/clinics as a parent/caregiver when seeing services to ensure they’re neurodiversity-affirming?
- What type of assessments do you/your clinic use to determine goals? Yes, standardized assessments may be needed for qualification or insurance purposes, but you will want to choose a provider/practice that doesn’t rely on standardized assessment results. Especially if your child is a gestalt language processor. Standardized testing is likely not giving you a full picture of your child’s comprehension skills. Until a child is self-generating language (using original, flexible language) in stage 4+, we cannot rely on standardized tests. Instead, providers should focus on informal measures such as language samples, play observations, parent interviews, and home videos.
- What does a typical therapy session look like? Sessions should be child-led, play-based sessions. This means, providers follow your child’s lead, and incorporate their goals naturally into their natural play so that sessions are meaningful and intrinsically motivating for your child. Sessions should not be based on adult-directed plans or compliance based methods.
- How does your staff stay up-to-date and keep up with professional development? Professional development is required for speech-language pathologists. Find out what professional development the provider/practice is investing in. Are they open to admitting that they don’t know something, but willing to learn more when provided with new information or practices?
- What is the parent’s role in services and how do you educate parents? Parents should be encouraged to participate in sessions if possible. They should be provided with information and coaching on strategies to best support the child outside of therapy sessions. You are the expert of your child.
Want to learn more about gestalt language processing, child-led therapy and neurodiversity-affirming practices?
There are many free podcasts, webinars and articles to get you started. A comprehensive list of resources can also be found on our website.
Consider taking the Meaningful Speech course to learn more about how your child or client processes language, how you can help move them from echolalia to self-generated (original flexible) language, child-led therapy, and neurodiversity-affirming practices.
Consider joining the waitlist for our new AAC + Gestalt Language Processing course that will be released in February of 2023! It will teach you how to identify, evaluate and support gestalt language processors who use AAC.
Look for a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who "gets it" and can help you in supporting your child's language development. Check out our registry. for SLPs who understand gestalt language processing and child-led therapy.