Bridging the gap from school to home: Effective coaching strategies to be used with parents and caregivers

by Audrey Nemeth, M.S.D.E, CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd

When working with young children who are deaf and hard of hearing, it is important to remember the crucial role that parents and caregivers play. They are a child’s first and most important teacher and supporting them is equally as important as supporting our students. One method that can be used to support parents and caregivers is coaching. Coaching can be especially helpful in bridging the gap between home and school.  It provides immediate, direct feedback and praise to the caregiver during a session with the child in order to help the caregiver to promote language outside of the classroom.

There are a variety of strategies that you can implement when using the coaching model:

1. Conduct an experiment

Use an open-ended comment to guide the caregiver into trying a new technique.

For example, you can say:

I wonder what would happen if you asked him to tell you a whole sentence?

“Let’s see what he would do if you told him to tell you that again with better speech.”

2. Be direct.

Provide direct instruction to the caregiver within the activity.

For example:

“Make him say the sentence again with ‘is.’”

“Tell her to use ‘do you’ to ask that question.”

3. Provide the parent/caregiver with non-verbal cues.

We often use visual cues to steer students into the right direction, and the same can be done with parents/caregivers.

Some examples of non-verbal cues that can be used are a head nod, an eyebrow raise or an expectant look.

4. Take away uncertainty.

Give the parent/caregiver examples of what they can do or say next.  This can not only ease any hesitation but also sets them up for success.

For example:

“The next time she wants something, let’s get her to ask a question so she can practice those question words.”

“On the next page, ask her, ‘what color?’ and make sure she answers with a color.”

5. Be a Sports Announcer.

Narrate the actions of the parent/caregiver or child.

Some examples include:

“I heard him leave out ‘is’ that time.”

“When Jackie said, ‘ball’ you pointed to the little ball to get more language.”

6. Catch Yourself.

Point out when you’ve missed something that the parent/caregiver didn’t.

You could say:

“Oh, I didn’t even hear him leave out the ‘is. ’ Great job catching that!”

“Great job correcting his speech! I didn’t hear that speech error.”

7. Provide Praise.

The best way to encourage and empower caregivers is to praise what they are doing well! Here are three things to be sure to include when praising caregivers:

  • Specific: What did they do that was good?
  • Immediate: Give them the praise at the time they did it.
  • Informed: Why was it good that they did what they did?

For example:

“I love how you made him say the whole sentence after the correction so he had a chance to practice the whole sentence together.”   

“Great job waiting and looking at him when he omitted ‘is.’  That gave him a chance to correct without you having to tell him, so he had to think about the language on his own.”

Most importantly, remember that all caregivers learn in different ways, and some will respond better to certain strategies than others. Be sure to change your strategies based on the unique needs of the caregiver.

Audrey Nemeth has been working as a Teacher of the Deaf for twelve years, serving primarily children ages three-five at CID, as well as at the Moog Center for Deaf Education.  She has taught a variety of language levels, and the importance of vocabulary, repetition and speech development can be observed in every lesson she teaches.

In addition to teaching children with hearing loss, Audrey provides parent/caregiver support on a weekly, bi-monthly, and monthly basis.  These sessions consist of: presenting information about hearing loss; discussing strategies, techniques, and activities for helping parents teach their children to talk, and providing embedded coaching to parents to improve their child’s communication skills.

Audrey also has a passion for teaching other professionals. For the past nine years, she has provided supervision and mentorship to student teachers from a variety of universities.

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