Coaching in Early Intervention

Guest Authored By Elaine Tierney, MS, CCC-SLP

Early Intervention is a program that provides therapy services for children from birth to three years old in their natural environments. This means the therapist travels to the child’s home or daycare and has the pleasure of working with caregivers. Caregivers may be parents, grandparents, babysitters, daycare staff, or whoever is taking care of the child at the time of the session.  

Caregivers, you may view this session time as a chance to run the laundry or cook dinner, but please try to stay and play during the sessions. You are the experts of your child, and the therapist is coming into your home to offer strategies for your child’s development. One hour of therapy a week will not have the same impact as you incorporating therapy strategies into your daily routines between sessions 

So what does a typical early intervention session look like? Some therapists may bring a toy bag to use during the session, but we try to use toys and objects that you already have around the house. This helps you practice the strategies between sessions. Therapists will use a coaching model to teach you new strategies and help you feel comfortable practicing them between sessions.  

Dr. Megan Roberts and colleagues at Northwestern University developed the Teach-Model-Coach-Review Technique. Using this technique, therapists will teach you a new strategy, model using that strategy with your child, coach you through using the strategy, then review how it went, and make a plan to keep using the strategy throughout the week.  

Teach – the therapist may bring in a handout, show you a video, or just verbally explain the strategy.

Model – the therapist is modeling the strategy with your child.

Coach – you are practicing with your child while the therapist is offering pointers.

Review – together you and the therapist discuss the session and make a plan for next time.

It may feel awkward at first to learn something new and practice it with your child’s therapist talking you through it, but research has shown that the coaching method is the most effective form of therapy. We hope you feel comfortable forming this relationship with your therapist, where you are receptive to feedback and feel open to asking questions if you do not understand a technique. We are here to empower you to feel better equipped to help your child learn and succeed!  

Roberts, M., & Kaiser, A. (2015). Early intervention for toddlers with language delays: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 135, 1-8.