Being Truly Family-Centered An audiologist reflects on the value of including clients’ family members in support groups and in planning and providing treatment. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   November 01, 2015
Being Truly Family-Centered
Author Notes
  • David Luterman, DEd, is an Emerson College professor emeritus and former director of its Thayer Lindsley Family-Centered Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Toddlers in the Robbins Speech, Language and Hearing Center. dmluterman@aol.com
    David Luterman, DEd, is an Emerson College professor emeritus and former director of its Thayer Lindsley Family-Centered Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Toddlers in the Robbins Speech, Language and Hearing Center. dmluterman@aol.com×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   November 01, 2015
Being Truly Family-Centered
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 96. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20112015.96
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 96. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20112015.96
I began my clinical work in the audiological dark ages: Hearing aids were primitive, as was our equipment. For children newly diagnosed with hearing impairment, there were minimal educational facilities and almost nothing that involved the parents.
In 1965, I began a family-centered program for children with hearing loss at Emerson College. When you put the family truly in the center of your clinical focus, a huge paradigm shift takes place. Instead of being passive observers, parents become active participants in the therapy, and treatment plans always involve consideration of parental needs. In fact, the parents and clinicians jointly arrive at lesson plans, with considerable parental input.

When you put the family truly in the center of your clinical focus, a huge paradigmatic shift takes place.

The goal of the program was to empower the parents by enlisting them as collaborators in the therapeutic endeavor. Parental knowledge enhances the therapeutic alliance, ensuring a better outcome for the child.
A key ingredient of the program was the parent support group—one morning a week the parents met with me to share their experiences. A life-changing event may isolate a family socially and emotionally. A support group with nondirective facilitating often reduces the families’ loneliness, as parents are finally in a context in which they can share their experiences and everyone understands what they are going through.
The group itself became an empowering vehicle, as parents became helpers to one another. By sharing their experiences and knowledge, all participants benefited, including the facilitator.
I can think of no greater healing or learning vehicle than a support group. I have used the format for many age groups coping with many different challenges: adults whose parents have dementia, spouses of chronically ill patients, and parents of children with a wide variety of disorders. A support group has always worked wonderfully. It is a great gift we can give our clients.
It’s difficult to obtain evidence for the advantages of working within a family context as compared to focusing only on the client. Anecdotal evidence, however, abounds for the value of actively focusing on families, and our common sense tells us that family work allows us to extend our therapeutic reach into the lives of our clients.
The program I started recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. It has not just endured, it is flourishing—and maybe that is evidence enough.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
November 2015
Volume 20, Issue 11