Early Intervention: The Importance of Parent-coaching

When it comes to early intervention, you may often hear your speech-language pathologist talk about the importance of parent-coaching. What is it and how can it be better than having your child work directly with a therapist on a weekly basis? 

The answer is much more straightforward than you might expect. Parent-coaching in Early Intervention is so important because the child spends much more time at home with their caregivers than they do with their therapist. They might see their therapist for 1 hour a week, maybe twice a week, but this is a very small amount of time in relation to the number of hours they spend at home with you. So, rather than a traditional model where the speech-language pathologist works directly with the child for the hour long session, it is far more beneficial to coach parents to use strategies and skills with their own child at home.The time a caregiver spends with their child provides a much larger window of language learning opportunities and exposure. Through parent coaching, the speech therapist’s goal is to maximize this time between parent and child. By equipping caregivers with the necessary strategies and skills, language learning and communication building occurs with the child even when therapists are not there. This increases communicative opportunities and participation for the child in their day-to-day interactions and natural environment.

Is there research-based evidence?


Research in the field suggests that it is far more beneficial to coach parents to use strategies and skills, rather than providing a brief overview at the end of each session. A recent meta-analysis by Sone, Lee, & Roberts (2021) has shown that caregivers learned to use strategies and skills at significantly higher rates when a coaching approach was used. This indicates that a brief handover to caregivers at the end of a session just isn’t enough. Parent-coaching sessions allow caregivers to learn the skills to effectively use strategies at home with their children.

Roberts & Curtis et al., (2019) analyzed 76 research studies that focused on interventions where caregivers are coached to use specific language strategies in play or daily routines. Their results found that children whose caregivers were coached to use language facilitation strategies made more progress than children whose parents/caregivers were not taught these strategies. The evidence suggests that parent-coaching sessions targeting language support strategies are an effective way to improve children’s language skills.

In summary, the research indicates that your treatment sessions with a speech-language pathologist can be highly effective when you acquire the necessary language strategies to use at home with your child, on a daily basis.

Find more on: Speech Therapy for Children and Speech Therapy for Adults

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Roberts, M.Y., Curtis*, P.R., Sone*, B.J., Hampton, L.H. (2019). Association of parent training with child language development: A systematic review and meta-analysisJAMA Pediatrics.Sone, B. J., Lee, J., & Roberts, M. Y. (2021). Comparing instructional approaches in caregiver-implemented intervention: An interdisciplinary systematic review and meta-analysisJournal of Early Intervention.