Attachment-informed practices in speech pathology involve understanding the child’s attachment style and the caregiver’s role in shaping the child’s social-emotional development.
Speech pathology is a field that encompasses the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders. As Speech-Language Pathologists, one of our main goals is to help individuals communicate effectively and efficiently, which requires a deep understanding of the individual’s communication needs, including their social-emotional development.
We also support children to engage safely and securely in mealtimes, which again, requires deep insight into the cultures, family-values and emotional experiences that surround mealtimes for the family. Research has shown that attachment plays a vital role in the development of social-emotional skills, and as such, attachment-informed practices are becoming increasingly important in speech pathology.
What is attachment?
Attachment is a term used to describe the emotional bond between an infant and their primary caregiver. Attachment is formed through a complex interplay of interactions between the infant and caregiver, and it lays the foundation for the development of social-emotional skills, including communication.
The attachment theory has been the subject of extensive research for many decades and has shown to be an important predictor of later social-emotional development. Children with secure attachment tend to have better social-emotional and communication skills than children with insecure attachment.
Circles of security
One of the most widely used attachment-informed approaches is the Circle of Security. Anna Blee (Principal and Director of Nurture Nest Speech Pathology) has completed additional professional development in Attachment-Informed Speech Pathology practices.
The Circle of Security is an intervention that was developed by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell in the early 1990s. The intervention is based on attachment theory and aims to help caregivers develop the skills to provide a secure base for their children. The Circle of Security is a visual representation of the caregiver’s role in promoting the child’s sense of security and exploring the world.
The circle is divided into four quadrants, each representing a different type of interaction between the caregiver and the child:
- Secure Base: The caregiver provides a secure base for the child to explore the world, while still being available for comfort and support when needed.
- Exploration: The child explores the world and feels safe and secure with the caregiver’s presence.
- Need for Comfort: The child expresses their need for comfort, and the caregiver responds promptly and effectively.
- Caregiver’s Perspective: The caregiver reflects on their interactions with the child and how they can provide a secure base for the child.
Children with communication disorders may have difficulty expressing their needs and emotions, which can lead to frustration and maladaptive behaviors. For children who are neurodiverse or have a trauma background, they might also mis-cues Parents and Carers. Coaching parents, carers, educators to understand these patterns and needs, and form a stable and consistent platform for the expression of emotions can be very helpful.
Attachment-informed practices can also be used to promote positive interactions between the speech pathologist and the child. By understanding the child’s attachment style, the speech pathologist can tailor their approach to meet the child’s unique needs, building a secure base for the child to explore their communication skills. This can lead to more positive interactions between the speech pathologist and child, promoting a sense of safety and security that is essential for effective communication.
If you want to learn more about the Circle of Security, there are some wonderful Parent resources here: https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com/resources-for-parents/