Encompass Blog

Connecting through Coaching: How Parent Coaching and Education Can Build Caregivers’ Capacity

April 16, 2020  |  Pediatric Therapy  |  By Lindsey Cooper, MA, CCC-SLP

Little girl and mom video chatting on laptop

The Encompass Pediatric Therapy Team has been providing services exclusively through teletherapy since late March 2020. Teletherapy has provided a steep learning curve for many of us—remember when “Zoom” wasn’t even in our vocabulary? This new service delivery method has also revealed some lovely opportunities for our therapy sessions to evolve and grow. One of my favorite aspects of teletherapy is having the time and space to provide parent coaching and education.

But how is this different than the direct treatment we often imagine when we think of a therapy session?

In the past, most visits in the Encompass Pediatric Therapy Clinic primarily used a direct treatment approach. In other words, the session usually involves the therapist engaging the child directly. Sometimes parents aren’t in the therapy room and instead receive parent coaching and education for a few minutes at the end of the session.

Teletherapy has provided us with a chance to elongate that conversation and directly involve parents/caregivers in their child’s treatment. During our virtual sessions, parents and caregivers have a front row seat to direct therapy as well as the chance to discuss topics of interest and ask questions about issues that arise during the week. The change from being an observer of direct therapy to a participant in parent coaching and education may leave you wondering: just what can parent coaching and education offer you? What can you talk about?

Here are some topics you may want to discuss with your child’s provider: 

  • Your feelings about parenting during a pandemic have an impact on your functioning and the way that you parent. This is a challenging time for all of us. We need to be able to talk about our feelings with someone who can hold space for us and respond to our emotions with compassion and gentleness. Encompass providers are trained to offer thoughtful, mindful and respectful therapy services, which often includes processing of a caregiver’s feelings. I invite you to lean on your child’s therapist as a parenting support during this time.
  • Your questions about your child’s behavior are a great thing to explore during this time. Is there a question that has been weighing on your mind for a while? Maybe you’re wondering why your child flaps their hands when they’re excited, or why your child can memorize entire episodes of Paw Patrol but can’t follow directions to pick up their toys. You may want to discuss prognosis, possible duration of treatment, or a new concern that has popped up in recent weeks. All of these are perfectly welcome topics to ask about during your child’s teletherapy session.
  • Changes in your child’s behavior can be worrisome to a parent. A familiar theme with many of our families is a concern about their child’s behavioral changes since school has been out and they have been staying safe at home. Perhaps your child typically is a complaint, happy child who can follow directions, transition between activities, and generally move about day-to-day life without incident. But since being out of school for a few weeks, you may be noticing that your child is having a harder time following directions, staying calm when told they can’t have a treat, or focusing during therapy sessions. There are reasons for these behavior changes, and your child’s therapist can provide valuable insight into these reasons, as well as coach you on strategies to tenderly and effectively support your child’s emotions during this stressful time. When we meet kids where they are and address the underlying emotional and physical needs, we will start to see a change in behavior.
  • Many families have concerns about how to keep children engaged and learning until school starts again. Your child’s provider has extensive experience with planning developmentally appropriate and interactive learning activities. In addition to offering guidance on how to use everyday items and activities to learn and grow, your child’s therapist can help with online or hard copy resources to target various functional and academic skills.
  • Questions about additional evaluations or services are another frequent topic of discussion during virtual therapy sessions. Often the children we work with can benefit from services through multiple disciplines to address challenges from several different angles. You may have been previously referred to a different discipline for evaluation but weren’t quite sure what that that type of therapy could offer. Teletherapy is a perfect time to discuss this topic!
  • Many parents/caregivers second-guess themselves and just want a second opinion about whether they are “doing it right.” Since starting therapy, you have likely received information about a home program: how your child’s therapist recommends you practice a new skill at home. While practicing, you may be wondering if you are doing the activity the “right way.” Teletherapy offers you a chance for your child’s provider to directly observe you working on the home program, answer questions, and provide feedback in real time.

Perhaps the best part of parent coaching and education is that it builds the parent’s skillset. The parent is now able to provide therapeutic activities throughout the week, outside of the time allotted to the therapy session. Parent coaching and education allows you to learn new techniques to engage your child and gain insights about your child’s strengths and areas to grow.  The progress that can happen when therapeutic activities are weaved into your child’s daily schedule can be profound. Your child’s therapist is ready and willing to help you learn the skills you will need to create a plan that works for you and your child.

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