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Collaborative working with parents produces optimal outcomes for children attending speech and language therapy. Gathering the evidence

Klatte, Inge and Lyons, Rena and Davies, Karen and Harding, Sam and Marshall, Julie and McKean, Christina and Roulstone, Sue (2020) Collaborative working with parents produces optimal outcomes for children attending speech and language therapy. Gathering the evidence. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. ISSN 1368-2822 (In Press)

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Abstract

Background: Collaboration between parents and speech and language therapists is seen as a key element in family-centred models. Collaboration can have positive impacts on parental and children’s outcomes. However, collaborative practice has not been well described and researched in speech and language therapy for children and may not be easy to achieve. It is important that we gain a deeper understanding of collaborative practice with parents, how it can be achieved, and how it can impact on outcomes. This understanding could support practitioners in daily practice with regard to achieving collaborative practice with parents in different contexts. Aims: The aim of this paper was to set a research agenda on collaborative practice between parents and speech and language therapists, in order to generate evidence regarding what works, how, for whom, in what circumstances, and to what extent. Methods: A realist evaluation approach was used to make explicit what collaborative practice with parents entails. The steps suggested by the RAMESES II project were used to draft a preliminary programme theory about collaborative practice between parents and speech and language therapists. This process generates explicit hypotheses which form a potential research agenda. Discussion and conclusion: A preliminary programme theory of collaborative practice with parents was drafted using a realist approach. Potential contextual factors (C), mechanisms (M) and outcomes (O) were presented which could be configured into causal mechanisms to help explain what works for whom in what circumstances. CMO configurations were drafted, based on relevant literature, which serve as exemplars to illustrate how this methodology could be used. In order to debate, test and expand our hypothesised programme theory for collaborative practice with parents, further testing against a broader literature is required alongside research to explore the functionality of the configurations across contexts. This paper highlights the importance of further research on collaborative practice with parents and the potential value of realist evaluation methodology. What this paper adds: Current policy in education, health and social care advocates for family-centred care and collaborative practice with parents. Thereby, collaborative practice is the preferred practice for speech and language therapists and parents. In this paper, we explored collaborative practice and used a realist evaluation approach to achieve the aim of setting a research agenda in this area. Researchers use realist evaluation, a methodology originally developed by Pawson and Tilley in the 1990s (Pawson and Tilley, 1997), to explore the causal link between interventions and outcomes, summarised as “what works, how, for whom, in what circumstances and to what extent” (Wong et al., 2014, p1). Realist evaluation provides a framework to explore configurations between contexts (C), mechanisms (M) and outcomes (O). We used this methodology to take a first step in making explicit what collaborative practice is and how it might be achieved in different contexts. We did this by drafting a preliminary programme theory about collaborative practice, where we made explicit what context factors and mechanisms might influence outcomes in collaborative practice between parents and SLTs. Based on this programme theory, we argue for the need to develop a research agenda on collaborative practice with parents of children with speech, language and communication needs. The steps between a programme theory and a research agenda could entail exploring each CMO, or step in the programme theory, and evaluating it against the existing literature – both within and beyond speech and language therapy - to see how far it stands up. In this way, gaps could be identified that could be converted into research questions which would stimulate debate about a research agenda on collaborative practice. Understanding how collaborative practice can be achieved in different contexts could support SLTs to use mechanisms to optimise collaborative practice intentionally and tailor interventions to the specific needs of families, thereby enhancing collaborative practice between parents and SLTs.

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