Directly Teaching the Child is One Component of Routines Based Intervention

Don’t under-estimate the effect you have on parents and your clients, and don’t under-estimate the power of direct teaching as well.

If you are an early intervention provider, I’m sure you are focused on routines based intervention. I am a huge believer in that approach. In saying that, though, I challenge you to really think about what that means. 
There are many components to home visiting. These include how you guide caregivers and how you establish a relationship with the caregivers and child. Coaching involves listening, determining the parents’ desires for their child, practical goal setting, guided practice, reflection, and much more. I fear, though, that we may forget that directly interacting and teaching a child is also an important component to early intervention.
Direct teaching should not be forgotten, and there are many reasons why I believe this is essential to being an effective EI provider. Here me out as I explain some of my reasoning.

1. Exploring techniques that will work and doing that in the most efficient way – Direct teaching allows you as a provider to explore techniques that you think may work with a child. Others can say that you should teach the parent to explore those techniques instead. That is certainly ideal, but at times, I need to explore certain ideas myself to determine how effective they will be for a child and how easy they will be for a parent to incorporate into their day. I can accomplish this more rapidly if I explore the technique first. Let’s face it. Our time with families is limited, so I always think about the most effective and efficient way to create the biggest change in the shortest amount of time. Direct teaching sometimes does that, but never use direct teaching as you only approach.
Direct teaching is also valuable for those of you who are newer to the field of early intervention and in working with young children. If you do not explore techniques directly with a child, you are missing your own personal growth that will make you a better parent coach.

2. Examining a parent’s comfort level – Over the many years working with kids and their families, I have worked with an incredibly diverse group of parents. Every parent brings a different perspective, history, expectation, and knowledge to the table, but one thing is always true – parents care about their kids. We may not always agree with how they interact with their children, but we need to go in with an understanding and belief that parents are doing the best they can.

That belief also should change your approach and expectation of what a parent may be comfortable doing during a home visit. Get to know the parent. Ask them about where they grew up, how they as children typically played and participated in life, what interaction their parents had with them when they were young.I may also ask a parent their experience with educators. For example, my experience with parents who are immigrants has been that educators are held in high esteem. Having a provider like us in their home may cause a great deal of anxiety. Our expectation for them to be the primary teacher for their child is a delicate issue and one that should be approached with respect and with complete comfort for the parent. Some parents are able to jump right into being observed, coached, and reflective about their interaction with their child. That can be very uncomfortable for other families. Meet them where they are.

If you are losing families to cancellations, no-shows, or discontinuing intervention completely, always analyze what you could have done differently. Perhaps your approach was too invasive, too uncomfortable for families who come from a very different perspective. Never walk away thinking it was because of a “difficult parent.” Yes, we will lose some families for a variety of reasons, but we have to always learn from those situations and know how you will approach a parent differently the next time.

3.Showing the parent that you love their child. There is something very special about showing a parent that you think their child is the coolest kid around. Kids who struggle often don’t get those positive interactions with others. Using direct teaching and direct interaction with a child shows the parent that you truly care about their little one. I have had countless parents tell me that the love I showed their child was a huge factor in them believing that their child will improve and that I will be their biggest cheerleader.

4.Giving the parents the confidence that you are competent and that you bring a knowledge to the table that parents need. I have heard countless times that you never want to look more skilled than a parent in working with their child. The reason was that this will make the parent feel that they can’t possibly be an effective teacher for their child defeated and less effective in teaching their child. This belief resulted in early intervention providers to taking a “hands off” approach to home visits. I simply do not believe in this philosophy.
Parents are welcoming you into their home, and they want to see that you are skilled and can offer knowledge that they do not have. If you approach your knowledge base with humility and compassion, you should not hesitate showing a parent that you can effectively work with their child. I always approach my own skills by first telling parents what skills THEY bring to the table that I don’t have. Showing parents that you are a TEAM with them gives them the understanding that you will count on them for their expertise just as much as they will count on you.

Direct teaching can show parents so many things. Direct teaching can provide parents with ideas that they would not see any other way. Direct teaching can show a parent that YOU are on their team and that they are not alone.
Do not hesitate to utilize DIRECT TEACHING in your work with young children. But equally important, do NOT allow direct teaching to be the primary method or only method of your therapy.
D‌irect Teaching can occasionally include materials you bring to the home.

I rarely bring my own materials to a person’s home. I prefer to use what is available in a child’s home and what is related to a child’s daily routines. There are, though, exceptions, and that is why I created products to help kids. For example,

Animal Face Posters – When a child doesn’t yet imitate verbally or take visual or verbal turns, I love using my animal face posters with a song to get that ball rolling. Go here to view a video teaching this song. If you purchase the animal face posters herewrite “Free Songs” in the message section at check-out, and I will send you a free song set of songs, Animals Movin’ and Groovin’, that can be used with these posters.

Talk It Rock It Songs and Visuals – I used my songs by giving parents loaner sets for speech and language practice. I rarely had time to use my songs during home visits. There were just too many other things to emphasize during a 1 hour visit. But I knew which songs would be great to practice, and I would give parents ideas on how to practice them depending on a child’s skills and needs. Never hesitate using my songs with a variety of different speech and language needs. I wrote them for kids with special needs. They WORK! 🙂 Use coupon code, Songs50, to receive 50% off any song set.

Blast Off Board – If you have students who need to practice imitating and saying sounds, sound sequences, words, and phrases in a fun way, the Blast Off Board is for you! If you have students who do not understand the skill of pointing or pointing to pictures upon request, the Blast Off Board is for you! Go here to see all of the benefits and features of this amazing set. Use the coupon code, Blast15%off, to receive 15% off any or all Blast Off Board products.

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