Chapter three:
experiences - Advanced level

Interview with parents

In this advanced level you will be guided through how to investigate parental perspectives when working with older children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. We will work through one parental interview in detail, practising how to identify key themes, links with your reading and implications for your practice.

Download response sheet for all the tasks in this section (PDF, 120KB)

Task one: The importance of parental perspectives

Watch the video clip below of the extracts from the interviews with Harry’s dad and Jo’s mum.

Think through: why is it important to investigate parental perspectives?

Task one feedback

You may wish to compare your observations and thoughts to the feedback below. The feedback for all tasks is based on our observations and thoughts, and is not necessarily a ‘correct’ answer. Your own observations are very important and will reflect your own learning and experiences.

Planning services

Support and intervention for speech, language and communication needs to result in better outcomes for children and young people, as highlighted by the Bercow review. Information from parents and families, as well as children and young people themselves, is essential for understanding what these ‘better outcomes’ should be. For example, parents value outcomes that increase independence.

Outcomes such as social and emotional development should also be a priority, but these may not currently be routinely considered. By investigating the perspectives of parents and families, services can work towards enabling outcomes that are relevant and meaningful.

The Better Communication Research Programme (BCRP) recommended that:

“Services and schools should systematically collect evidence of children’s and young people’s outcomes that include the perspectives of children, young people and their parents, and that provide evidence that changes in children and young people’s speech, language and communication are increasing their independence and inclusion.” (Lindsay et al., 2012).

Supporting families

Commissioning services for children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties can be complex, covering services in both health and education. A cohesive, collaborative approach is required. It is essential that parents and children are well-informed and included in decision making processes: the BCRP findings suggest that many parents did not feel that they had enough information.

Listening to the perspectives of parents and families in a meaningful way takes time, yet could prevent or reduce feelings such as ‘having to battle’ or family stress.

For more information, look at the Better Communication Research Programme reports available online.

Reports available on GOV.UK

We recommend that you now look at the following report, as part of your learning in this advanced Teen Talk chapter:

Roulstone, S. and Lindsay, G. (2012) The perspectives of children and young people who have speech, language and communication needs, and their parents. Department for Education: London.

Task one feedback (PDF, 268KB)

Task two: Listening in detail and making notes

If you want to investigate parental perspectives in your own workplace or study, you may want to do your own detailed interviews. The following tasks are designed to support the skills you will use to analyse these interviews.

Watch the full video clip of interview with Jo’s mum. Jo is a 13-year-old girl with complex speech and language difficulties. She attends mainstream school.

This is a longer clip than in other Teen Talk chapters, lasting about 12 minutes. Watch the video clip carefully - you may even want to watch it twice.

Make notes on the content of the interview - you might want to transcribe sections or make detailed notes on Jo’s mum’s ideas and experiences.

Task two feedback

You may want to compare your notes with the detailed notes below.

Detailed notes of video

00.22 How would you describe the sorts of difficulties that Jo has? - Main one is her speech. Wants to communicate, bubbly. This has helped her. Family involve her in everything, never said she’s any different. We include her with us

01.00 Friendships - At a difficult age because young girls want to stand about, shopping, girly chatter. Jo has to think about what she wants to say, girls have probably moved on to another subject. Jo’s finding it really difficult.

01.31 - For trying to get you to understand, she’s a star for that. In the past has wanted a certain person and they have gone to old videos in the garage because she knows the person’s name is on that. Great memory and tries her hardest.

02.00 Examples of her speech - Has her own way of saying things, for example ‘melomade’ for ‘lemonade’.

Battenburg cake - was trying to say she had some at her auntie’s and all she could say was ‘yellow pink yellow pink’ - took two hours, other children might just say “well they don’t know what I’m on about so I’ll just go in my room”. Highlights Jo. Everybody supports her.

03.05 - Years ago we didn’t think she would ever speak. Speech and language therapists doing things with her and everybody working together and getting on and being friendly and nice helps. Personal touch.

03.42 Poorly baby - In special unit when born, difficulties with breathing. Broncholitis and pneumonia at nine weeks - touch and go.

04.15 - At one year old thought “there’s something here” didn’t babble and gurgle - visual, looking around in her own little world. Some of the family thought she was blind at first. At two years, went to the doctors and started the ball rolling. When you look back at old videos, she was just sat and taking it all in. Didn’t walk until nearly one, everything delayed, toileting - couldn’t tell you she wanted to go.

05.39 - Nursery suggested fetching her early, when nearly three. Helped - had a statement from nursery because they were so on the ball.

06.09 - Upsetting because she has so much character and so much to say, that she can’t and it holds her back.

06.16 Put on a play at school - she wanted main part and school had to come and say “we can’t”. I understood and they gave her a part.

06.30 Started Makaton - very helpful, was hardly saying any words. All the classroom had the symbols in infant school.

07.10 What has helped Jo and you at school, and what has not been so helpful? - Support from teaching assistant has been fantastic. A good team all the way through, a good SLT and TA and they had good bonding. I can go in at different stages to see how they’re going, and things are sent home. Not been easy to get statements - had to fight all the way.

Really hard when it’s your own child and you have these big meetings, and they turn round to tell you she’s not allowed nine hours statement. Then you have to start writing about your own child. They’re alright just talking about “this person”. Upset along the way - thinking why is it mine? The way Jo is turning out, it’s like “this is what we’ve done”.

08.51 Impact on the family - It’s hard because we’ve got another child. Can feel like Jo gets more attention. Mum and dad support together. Mum stopped work because getting stressed. Found it hard when Jo’s difficulties were written down in black and white.

Dad copes really well, tends to build it up then let it out. Corrects her a lot more than mum. Does it for her own good but sometimes she doesn’t see that. When she’s tired at the end of the day, flagging. Has done well to keep in mainstream school. Went to visit other provision but it wasn’t for her.

10.45 What are the challenges for Jo and all of you looking forward? - Would like her to be able to cope in her environment and get a job – would be brilliant to see that. Still early days. To have her own place, she says she’s saving up now. It’s hard for anybody in this world.

In the right hands, she’d do a good job - if she did get a job, eg Primark, told what to do and where to do it, she’d just do it and be pleasant and helpful. Take each day as it comes. We’re there as a family to support her.

12.02 What do you enjoy about her? - She’s a character. We’d love her to be able to speak and get on with it like anybody else but she wouldn’t be able to. We can’t change it. We’ve got to appreciate what we’ve got and we love her to bits. Everybody knows her, bubbly person. Through us as a family doing that with her. Everybody supports her.

Task two feedback (PDF, 395KB)

Task three: Identifying key themes in the interview

Using your notes and the detailed notes provided in the last task feedback, identify the important themes that come through in the interview with Jo’s mum.

How do these themes in Jo’s mum’s interview link to your knowledge of the findings of the Better Communication Research Programme?

Task three feedback

Using the following suggested themes to reflect and build on your own ideas.

Theme one: Family support

Subthemes might include:

  • Whole family support

  • Challenges of getting hours of support written into the statement - had to fight.

  • Impact on family - impact on other child, parental stress, employment.

  • Importance of the family’s role in getting support: ‘this is what we’ve done’.

We recommend that the perspective of children and families should be systematically collected.

  • Parents need to be well-informed.

  • Parents should be involved in all forms of decision-making.

Theme two: The importance of professionals around Jo

Subthemes might include:

  • Early life - identifying her difficulties.

  • Early support and action from nursery.

  • Things that help - personality, use of strategies, perseverance, family support.

  • What has helped in school - good TA, good SLT, working together.

  • The importance of working as a team.

  • Inclusion in all activities, for example school play.

We recommend that professionals from both health and education collaborate for a continuum of services designed around the family. Many parents describe struggling to access the appropriate support. For example, only 15% of parents felt that speech and language therapy was available as required (RCSLT and I CAN, 2018).

There should be a cohesive, collaborative approach.

Theme three: Building life skills

  • Some challenges now with friendships in the teenage years - keeping up with conversation of peers.

  • Wishes for Jo’s future - job, home of her own.

  • Jo’s many positive attributes.

Any support and intervention for language disorders needs to address the priorities of parents and young people:

  • Child’s happiness and social/emotional needs

  • Inclusion with peers

  • Academic achievement

  • Safety

  • Independence

You may wish to follow up this task with further reading into qualitative analysis of interviews. There are many textbooks and online resources that cover this. You could also look up journal articles to see examples of how interview data has been analysed and presented.

Task three feedback (PDF, 395KB)

Task four: Supporting and including parents and families

What can we learn from Jo’s mum, in terms of changing our own professional practice?

Task four feedback

Your ideas will be very specific to your work or study context. Some ideas might include:

  • The need to support parents during times of diagnoses or when key reports are received from professionals - what could this support look like?

  • Providing accessible strategies to support speech, language and communication for the whole family (aunties, grandparents) - could you support parents or young people to do this themselves?

  • Acknowledging the expertise and specialist knowledge of parents and families - how can this be developed in your own work?

  • Fitting current provision within a family’s life story - how could you build on the family’s positive experiences in nursery and learn lessons to apply to current provision?

  • Meeting with parents throughout the year, not just as part of the review process or as part of setting yearly targets. For example, when statement of special educational needs targets or their equivalent are set - what processes could be put in place so that families feel they can contact you appropriately when needed?

  • Using an asset-based approach so that young people’s strengths are the starting point for any support or intervention - how would this change your approach to target setting?

  • Making it clear and explicit how different agencies and professionals work as a team - how could you communicate this to families?

  • Linking interventions and support to functional targets, such as independence, quality of friendships, employability and happiness - how can you ensure that your own work feeds into these priorities? How can this be communicated to families (as well as young people)?

Task four feedback (PDF, 376KB)

Task five: Reflections

Summarise your thoughts on Jo’s mum’s interview.

  • What have you learned from watching this?

  • How will your learning impact on your own professional practice?

  • What could you do to gain parents’ perspectives?

  • What questions might you ask to specifically find out about issues of independence and inclusion?