Getting Started with Coaching in the Context of Routines and Activities

by Crystal Williams, Ed.M.

family with baby crawling
Image from Pixabay.com, CC0

Caregiver coaching is promoted in the field of early intervention to enhance caregivers’ ability to promote their children’s development and learning. In our last blog, we provided an overview of the coaching model in early intervention and provided resources for more information. In this blog we focus on getting started with coaching and the importance of embedding coaching strategies within family routines and activities.

How do I get started?

  1. Learn about coaching practices.
    As noted, information about coaching practices can be reviewed in our previous blog.
  2. Talk to families about coaching.
    Rush and Shelden (2020), authors of The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook, emphasize that coaching is a mutual agreement that must be entered into by both providers and caregivers. An article by Dathan Rush provides more strategies and recommendations for preparing families for coaching, such as focusing on activities that require caregiver involvement during home visits.
  3. Utilize tools, resources, and professional learning communities that support coaching practices.
    This joint planning form is one example of a tool that can support coaching practices. Research has shown that providers benefit from engaging in reflection and feedback with other professionals about their coaching practices (Krick Oborn & Johnson, 2015; Marturana & Woods, 2012). Ongoing involvement in learning communities, peer mentoring, and/or peer coaching can provide opportunities for these supportive interactions among fellow providers.

Why should I embed coaching into routines and activities?

Under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act (2004), early intervention services are required to occur in natural environments, such as the child’s home, childcare, or other typical community settings. In 2008, a workgroup of professionals and researchers in early intervention offered guidance to providers to clarify what natural environment practices should look like. A common theme throughout this guidance is that intervention should occur within the typically occurring routines and activities that children and families are already engaged. The Family Guided Routines Based Intervention (FGRBI) website has multiple resources related to routines that providers can access for more information.

Which routines and activities can be used for coaching?

There are no prescribed routines and activities in which coaching must occur. Each family engages in their own unique routines and activities. Early intervention providers should gather information about all families’ routines and activities to individualize coaching. The Routines-Based Interview (RBI), developed by Robin McWilliam, is one tool that providers can use to gather information on typical routines and activities. Multiple resources and materials related to the RBI are available online at the Evidence-Based International Early Intervention Office (EIEIO) and the FGRBI websites.

What are the benefits of coaching during routines and activities?

  • Using routines naturally promotes family involvement
  • Caregivers feel more prepared to use intervention strategies (Salisbury et al., 2018)
  • Family routines are repetitive by nature which may lead to quicker child learning
  • Real life occurs within routines, which sets the stage for more opportunities to practice and therefore addresses family priorities and challenges

Can routines be used during telehealth sessions?

Coaching within routines may be easier via remote service delivery (i.e., telehealth) than in person for several reasons.

  1. Scheduling sessions when routines naturally occur may be easier due to the flexibility afforded through telehealth. Since providers do not have to travel for telehealth sessions, it may be more feasible for them to plan sessions around families’ schedules. Additionally, without having to worry about traveling, providers and families may be able to schedule multiple shorter sessions to address several routines that occur at different times of the day/week.
  2. Children do not always behave typically when providers are in families’ homes. A live video visit can allow providers to see routines in a way that may be less obtrusive than if they were physically present in the home.

Telehealth and live video visits, by design, are “hands off” which can create opportunities to transition to routines-based coaching. Caregivers who previously were not engaged in sessions may be more open to being coached on strategies that could positively impact their everyday routines and activities.