The answer to the riddle is simple – great coaches! With football season in full swing consider the following analogy. In athletics the coaches roles is to guide the quarterback in using their skills and talents across any number of play configurations. However, at game time, that same coach is not going to suddenly run onto the field to catch the football himself.Rather he is going to analyze plays after the game and help the team plan on how to do a better job next time. In the case of early intervention, you as a provider of care serves a similar role of coach.You help parents identify and analyze challenges, internalize solutions, apply evidence-based strategies across multiple situations or routines, and reflect together on what did and did not work. Versus taking charge and allowing the parent to play a passive role it becomes a team approach.
Traditionally early intervention consisted of hands-on, child focused sessions usually on the living room floor.Parents were only occasionally invited to observe or participate in the session.Research now tells us that best practice is to shift to a family focused approach which includes demonstrating skills and strategies to the caregiver, watching them model the skill back and then embedding those strategies throughout the families routines and activities.Suddenly the early interventionist is working more as a coach, partnering with the parent as they work towards targeted family outcomes. Since the intervention is embedded throughout the day the opportunity for learning and development is expanded from that one hour session in the living room to innumerable learning opportunities.
The coaching process can be divided into five basic steps or characteristics:
#1:Joint planning: Start your time together with a review of what has happened the previous week. Were there things that went really well or completely flopped? Have concerns or priorities changed since the last visit? Confirm that you are all still on the same page. Finally, end your time together by developing a plan for the coming week.
#2: Observation: This is a two way exchange of information. As the coach you can quietly observe the parent and child interact. Take a moment to model a specific technique, strategy or skill to the parent while they observe you work directly with their child.
#3: Action/Practice: As you demonstrate to the parent a strategy always tie it to a valued family routine or activity. Then, ask them to model it back to you. This is a great way to get that reluctant mommy off the sofa and down on the floor, engaged in the session and their child.
4: Reflection: Use reflective questions to help the parent analyze or critique what you practiced or discussed. Discuss what the next steps should be.
#5: Feedback: Affirm what the parent says or does and offer positive feedback.
Give coaching a try and share your clinical experiences with your peers!