Header image- text on a faded white background reads "The importance of parent coaching in early intervention". The image behind the text shows a mother and child playing with a toy car.

The Importance of Parent-Coaching in Early Intervention- Parent-Coaching Mini-Series Part 1

As therapists, we know the importance of parent-coaching in Early Intervention. We know that not only is parent-coaching highly beneficial for both the caregivers and the child, we know that the evidence base that supports the use of parent-coaching in Early Intervention is huge.

However, sometimes when working with young children, parents/caregivers would prefer that we work directly with their child during the sessions. And they can be reluctant to follow a parent-coaching approach. So, when we start sessions, we often have to talk to parents/caregivers about WHY we are doing a parent-coaching approach.

Title reads "Why is parent-coaching important?" with a pie chart with the majority in pink and a small strip in green. The pink part represents the number of hours a child spends at home. Based on an average of 84 hours a week. From an Instagram mini-series about parent-coaching in early intervention.

Why is parent-coaching so important in Early Intervention?

This is a common question that parents and caregivers ask. And the answer is fairly straightforward…. Parent-coaching in Early Intervention is important because the child spends more time at home with their parents/caregivers than they do with us.  So rather than therapists working directly with the child for the session and then giving a brief handover to parents/caregivers, it is far more beneficial to coach parents/caregivers to use strategies and skills with their own child at home.

Here is a little breakdown:

If we say toddlers spend roughly 84 hours a week awake (~12hrs/day).
They have a one hour therapy session with you during the week.
This means they potentially have 83 hours a week with their parents/caregivers.
…Even accounting for time spent at daycare/childcare, they are with their parents/caregivers far longer than they are with you.
And during that time there will be a lot of language opportunities happening. Right?!

Well, this is why parent-coaching is so crucial. We want to maximise the times when the child is exposed appropriate language and communication opportunities. So we should focus our efforts on the things that will make the most progress, in the most appropriate way. Which is why a parent-coaching approach is recommended in Early Intervention.   Training parents/caregivers to use strategies at home in play and daily routines means we are addressing the child’s language needs in a naturalistic environment. This improves carryover at home as the parents/caregivers are able to use strategies and skills with the child when therapists are not there. This approach also helps to increase communicative opportunities and participation for the child. Parent-coaching also supports a family-centered approach to therapy delivery (Crawford and Weber, 2014). Seriously, parent-coaching really is great!

What does the research say?

Believe me, more progress will come if you coach the parents/caregivers to use language strategies and supportive techniques in their daily routines and activities at home, than if you spend your 1 hour working 1:1 with the child. But don’t just take my word for it; the research shows this time and again. In fact, a recent meta-analysis by Sone, Lee, & Roberts (2021. Access the research paper from EI Northwestern here) has shown that parents/caregivers learned to use strategies and skills at “significantly higher rates” when a coaching approach was used vs when it wasn’t! So just a brief handover to parents/caregivers at the end of the session isn’t enough. We have to be coaching parents/caregivers in order for them to learn and use strategies properly.

Another meta-analysis by Roberts & Curtis et al., (2019, Access the research paper from EI Northwestern here) looked at 76 research studies that focused on the use of parent-implemented language interventions (these are interventions where parents/caregivers are coached to use specific language strategies in play or daily routines). The meta-analysis found that children whose parents/caregivers were coached to use language facilitation strategies made more progress than children whose parents/caregivers were not taught these strategies. This again demonstrates that coaching parents/caregivers to use language support strategies is an effective way to improve children’s language skills.

Want to learn more about parent-coaching in Early Intervention?

If you want to read more about the evidence base that supports a parent-coaching approach, The Early Intervention Handbook contains a detailed evidence overview about parent-coaching, parent-implemented interventions, and early language strategies (plus more!). You can check this out in my TpT store here.

As I said before. The research shows time and again that our time in the session is better spent if we coach the parents/caregivers to use strategies/skills that they can implement throughout the week when we are not there.

Image of the Early Intervention Handbook- a guide for Early Intervention SLPs about Parent-Coaching

This post is part one of a 4-part mini-series all about Parent-Coaching. Click here to view the next post.


Crawford, M.J., and Weber, B. (2014). ‘Early Intervention Every Day: Embedding Activities in Daily Routines for Young Children and Their Families’. Paul H Brookes Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD.

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-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics.

Sone, B. J., Lee, J., & Roberts, M. Y. (2021). Comparing instructional approaches in caregiver-implemented intervention: An interdisciplinary systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Early Intervention.
Access the research papers from EI Northwestern here