6 Tips for EXPERT Coaching in Early Childhood Intervention

Is your Expert Coaching different to Regular Coaching?

When I first started learning to coach formally, I was confronted by a dilemma. My experience as an Early Childhood Intervention Practitioner was that it was my job to help build a parent’s competence (and confidence) to support their child’s development in everyday routines. Yet here I was learning that real Coaching meant NOT telling people what to do.  What this predicament meant for me was that somehow parents needed to learn the relevant skills without me telling them what to do. This was a little confusing!

At the time, I truly believed that I was not ordering families around. I felt that I was suggesting or gently recommending a range of strategies that I believed would help their child to develop and grow.

What I came to realise was, that in fact by sharing my ideas and recommendations with families is another version of telling! As I learned more about coaching, I gradually I began to understand a few critical distinctions.

You may relate to some of these insights I gained:

  • Suggesting or recommending strategies is a more subtle form of telling people what to do.
  • Sometimes a suggested solution, is not always compatible with what the family want to do.  Families often will not let you know they are uncomfortable with a suggestion. They just don’t follow through with the recommendations. It is not that uncommon for parents to say what they think you want to hear. If you never check in with them, you will never know!
  • Coming in with your expert knowledge can in some instances serve to disempower They can feel inadequate next to the expert. “How come you can get my child to perform and I can’t? “How will I ever know enough or be able to do what you do.”
  • Sharing information a parent already knows can come across as condescending.

Why do we do it?

We are employed for our expert knowledge in how to work with children with a disability. We want to and feel responsible for sharing this vital knowledge with families.

It is best practice in Early Childhood Intervention to assist parents to embed strategies into their everyday routines. This is how children get to be exposed to and practice new skills in a relevant and meaningful way. Coaching, when carried out via the Expert Coach Approach can help parents to feel confident in their newly learned skills. They become empowered to play a more significant role in their child’s ongoing development.

How do we do it?

So how do you share the valuable information and expertise you have learned over time? The biggest light bulb moment for me was when I understood that it was all about the order in which you do it. Start at the bottom and work your way up.

  1. Listen Well

First you have to find out exactly what the parent wants to achieve. It is useful to understand why and how it will impact their lives. Spend some time discovering what they see as the challenges and what they believe they need to be successful.

  1. Ask Powerful Questions

Acknowledge them for their efforts so far.

Ask all about what they have already tried and how it worked.

Find out which bits were successful and which bits were not.

Ask how they could use what did work in other ways. Have them consider what they think they could do differently to make the next attempt more successful.

  1. Explore and Clarify Fully

Continue to explore and discover with the parent until you feel you have covered all aspects of what they have done, would like to do and what they believe is the best way to achieve their desired outcome.

If after you have fully heard the parent, you believe there is more for them to know about, it is time to think of moving into Expert Coaching.

  1. Ask Permission to Share Expert Information

There is just one more thing to do before jumping in to share your knowledge. That is, to ask if they want to hear what you have to share. You could say something like “You have done some amazing work with your child so far. After hearing everything you have tried, I am aware of two more ideas that I experienced with other families that may be useful. Would you like to hear what they are?”

  1. Put on your Expert hat and share your information succinctly.

Now you are free to share your information. Keep it short and sweet and very clear.

“One idea is that you …… and the other is for you to ………….”

  1. Explore the Options You Suggested

Ask the question, “Of these two ideas, do either resonate with you?”

Then continue to coach the parent around the solution they choose.

Now that you understand how to best deliver your expert information to families facing challenging situations, consider the approach your team is taking. Are they all working in this best practice manner?

If you need help applying the Expert Coach approach to your Early Childhood Intervention practice, I can help. My Disability and Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS) Coaching focuses on building confidence and competence in practitioners and parents. Ask me about a program to suit you and your team here.

Hi there! I’m Jacqui Snider and I’m here to help you and your business grow and flourish.

As an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and Trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals and organisations develop better home and workplace practices that everyone enjoys being part of. With more than 35 years of coaching experience, I have personally coached and trained in excess of 350 leaders, bringing about transformational change in both individuals and teams.

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