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Coaching in Early Intervention


image of coachingAccording to Rush & Shelden (2005), coaching is defined as:

An adult learning strategy in which the coach promotes the learner’s ability to reflect on his or her actions as a means to determine the effectiveness of an action or practice and develop a plan for refinement and use of the action in immediate and future situations.


Coaching interactions can be used by practitioners during early intervention visits to help parents develop their abilities to interact with their children in ways that support their child’s development. Coaching can be used during natural family routines as a way to help families identify strategies, practice them during visits, reflect on their interactions with their children, problem solve challenges, and receive supportive feedback.

For more information on how to use coaching in your work, check out the resources you’ll find under this topic.



Rush, D. D., & Shelden, M. L. (2005). Evidence-based definition of coaching practices. CASEInPoint, 1(6), 1-6.


Click the links below to jump directly to the following sections of this page.
Archived Webinars | Articles & Handouts | Audio/Video | Online Learning | Tools | Websites & Programs


coaching facilitation guideVirginia's Coaching Facilitation Guide

This guide is designed to help master coaches, supervisors, local system managers, and other coaching leaders facilitate a book study or staff activities to support ongoing use of coaching practices. It is written to align with The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook (Rush & Shelden, 2011) and includes instructions, handouts, answer keys, and links for a wide variety of activities. For support with using the guide, please email Dana Childress at dcchildress@vcu.edu.


Coaching in Early Intervention - Introductory PresentationPPT

This presentation was developed by coaching leaders in the Valley region of Virginia and is now available for others to use with EI practitioners. It was designed to provide an introductory level training (4 hours) to EI practitioners about coaching practices. Special thanks to the Valley region for sharing this resource!

Archived Webinars

Talks on Tuesdays

3…2…1…Blast Off! Launching VA’s Coaching Facilitation Guide

VA’s Integrated Training Collaborative

Partnership for People with Disabilities

Presented by Dana Childress

This archived webinar introduces a new resource, Virginia’s Coaching Facilitation Guide. This 129-page resource is designed to help master coaches, program supervisors, and local system managers lead a book study using The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook (Rush & Shelden, 2011) and facilitate learning activities at staff meetings about using coaching with families. The guide includes detailed activities (instructions and handouts) that can be used to reinforce important coaching concepts. An implementation project was also discussed, which includes monthly online support for program leaders who are implementing the guide with their localities. Click the link above to visit the 2015 Talks on Tuesdays Archive and scroll down until you find the webinar.

A Conversation about Coaching

VA’s Integrated Training Collaborative

Partnership for People with Disabilities

Presented by Dathan Rush & M’Lisa Shelden

This webinar provides information about the purpose and goal of early intervention, how to support families, and how to use the research to inform practices. The coaching interaction style is explained in the context of evidence-based practices for the field. Click the link above to visit the 2013 Talks on Tuesdays Archive and scroll down until you find the webinar.

The Master Coach’s Journey – A Conversation with Early Interventionists Who have become Master Coaches

VA’s Integrated Training Collaborative

Partnership for People with Disabilities

Presented by Nancy Brockway, Beth Cooper, Stacie Jackson, Tracy Miller, & Susan Sigler

In this webinar, VA master coaches and supervisors share their insights about becoming master coaches and supporting staff. Click the link above to visit the 2013 Talks on Tuesdays Archive and scroll down until you find the webinar.

Thinking Outside the…Bag! Coaching in Natural Environments

VA’s Integrated Training Collaborative

Partnership for People with Disabilities

Presented by Corey Herd

This webinar describes best practice strategies for and the importance of using materials found in families’ natural environments, instead of taking a toy bag. Click the link above to visit the 2010-2011 Talks on Tuesdays Archive and scroll down until you find the webinar.



Articles & Handouts

A Guide to Effective Consultation in Settings Serving Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families (external website)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

This guide defines core knowledge, competencies, and dispositions for consultants working with early care and education programs and diverse settings serving infants, toddlers, and their families. Settings include center-based child care, family child care, Early Head Start, family, friend, and neighbor care, Part C early intervention, home visiting, and early childhood mental health.

Agreed Upon Mission and Key Principles for Providing Early Intervention Services in Natural Environments (external website)

Workgroup on Principles and Practices in Natural Environments, OSEP TA Community of Practice: Part C Settings.

The “mission statement” reflects the broad over-arching purpose of family- centered early intervention services provided under Part C of IDEA. Principles are the foundations necessary to support the system of family- centered services and supports. Both the mission and principles were developed by the workgroup and reflect consensus opinion.

BriefCASE – Coaching Quick Reference Guide (external website)

This BriefCASE outlines what an individual using a coaching interaction style and the person being coached (i.e., the learner) would each do in relation to the characteristics of the coaching process.

BriefCASE – Tips & Techniques for Effective Coaching Interactions (external website)

This article describes strategies to help practitioners use a coaching style of interaction.

CASEInPoint – Evidence-Based Definition of Coaching Practices (external website)

This article describes a definition for coaching based on research and the characteristics of coaching so that practitioners can understand how coaching can be used to build the capacity of parents and other colleagues.

CASEInPoint – Common Misperceptions about Coaching in Early Intervention (external website)

This article addresses 10 common misperceptions about using coaching, including the therapist’s role with the child and family, use during a billable service, purpose of coaching, etc.

CASEtools-A Framework for Reflective Questioning When Using a Coaching Interaction Style (external website)

This CASEtool includes a description of the development and use of the Framework for Reflective Questioning. The framework is useful for assisting coaches in promoting reflection on the part of another person when using a capacity-building approach in early childhood intervention.

CASEtools-Coaching Practices Rating Scale for Assessing Adherence to Evidence-Based EC Intervention Practices (external website)

This CASEtool includes a brief overview of coaching practices, a description of the Coaching Practices Rating Scale, and an explanation of how to use the scale to determine the extent to which a practitioner uses the characteristics of coaching as part of his or her work with a family member or in supporting a colleague.

CASEmakers - Characteristics and Consequences of Coaching Practices (external websites)

This bibliography contains selected references to the operational characteristics of coaching practices. The sources of information included provide a basis for understanding the characteristics and consequences of coaching that support an adult learner to improve existing abilities and develop new skills

Coaching in Early Intervention

Infant & Toddler Connection of the Highlands

This handout was developed to help families understand coaching and what to expect on early intervention visits.

Coaching with Evidence-based Practices (external website)

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Visit this page for the NPDC Coaching Manual, presentations, and coaching video examples.

Coaching Quick Reference Guide & Framework for Reflective Questioning PDF

This quide has been developed, with permission from the authors, from information in Rush and Shelden's The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook.

EI Coaching Initiatives PDF

Integrated Training Collaborative

This handout provides information about the ITC’s professional development activities related to supporting EI service providers in learning to use coaching interactions with families.

Friedman, C., Woods, J., & Salisbury, C. (2012). Caregiver coaching strategies for early intervention providers: Moving toward operational definitions. Infants & Young Children, 25, 62-82.
In this article, a set of definitions and examples of coaching practices are proposed that providers can use to identify specific practices they can use to support caregiver learning. Practices include: conversation/information sharing, observation, direct teaching, demonstration, guided practice with feedback, caregiver practice with feedback, joint interaction, and problem-solving/reflection.

Keeping It Real: Coaching Parents to Use Natural Experiences for Learning
Ellie White and Dorie Noll
Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center
This article provides information for listening and spoken language professionals who serve infants and toddlers with hearing loss and their families about coaching practices. Guidance is provided about using specific family daily routines and examples are provided. Avoiding taking toy bags into natural environments is also addressed. The information in this article is useful for EI service providers of all disciplines.

Kemp, P., & Turnbull, A. P. (2014). Coaching with parents in early intervention: An interdisciplinary research synthesis. Infants & Young Children, 27(4), 305-324.

This article synthesizes intervention studies using coaching in early intervention and
describes findings that address coaching definitions and descriptions, characteristics of families and coaches, settings, contexts, dosage, and professional development, and child and family outcomes.

Using a Coaching Style of Interaction with Child Care Providers (external website)

M’Lisa Shelden, PhD and Dathan Rush, PhD

This conference handout includes information from a presentation at the 2012 Inclusion Institute which reviews the coaching interaction style and discusses how it fits with early intervention provided in child care settings. Checklists are also included that can be used by EI service providers and child care providers who engage in coaching. More information about these checklists can also be found below under Tools.

Using Primary Service Providers & Coaching in Early Intervention Programs (external website)

Definition and Characteristics of Primary Coach Approach to Teaming: Moving Beyond Multidisciplinary Practices

Life Span Institute at Parsons

University of Kansas

This technical assistance/training packet includes handouts and quizzes providing information about coaching and the transdisciplinary primary provider model to service delivery and teaming.




Coaching a Family during an EI VisitCoaching a Family during an Early Intervention Visit

Integrated Training Collaborative
Partnership for People with Disabilities/VCU


This video features Yvonnie, a developmental services provider, using a coaching interaction style with a mother during an early intervention visit. Yvonnie reviews the mother’s joint plan for helping her son learn to self-feed and pull-to-stand. She uses reflective questions to explore the family’s experience since the last visit.

Coaching in ActionCoaching in Action

Integrated Training Collaborative
Partnership for People with Disabilities/VCU


This video features Robin, a speech-language pathologist, using a coaching interaction style with a mother during an early intervention visit. Robin uses observation, practice, reflection, feedback, and joint planning during this activity to help the mother learn intervention strategies she can use with her son.

An Early Interventionist Reflects on Making the Shift to the Coaching Model (external website)
Juliann Woods & Early ACCESS
An Early ACCESS early interventionist reflects on her participation in the Iowa Distance Mentoring Model, how she made the shift to using a coaching model, and what she likes about using it.

Families Front and Center: The Power of Coaching (external website)
FIT FOCUS Video Library
University of New Mexico Center for Development and Disability
In the video, a developmental vision specialist describes and illustrates how she used video recordings of her early intervention home visits as a foundation for self-reflection and refinement of her practice and her shift to using coaching in her practice. Visit this library for other videos about the use of coaching by EI programs in New Mexico to support staff and families.

Family-Guided Routines-Based Intervention - Video Illustrations (external website)
Florida State University
Visit this site to watch videos of EI service providers using the FGRBI approach, which includes caregiver coaching strategies. Videos demonstrate the use of coaching practices during intervention visits with families and include interviews with families and providers.

Harper Hope: A Parent’s View of the Power of Early Intervention (external website)

Direct Results Access Project

This is an important video for families who are, or will be, receiving early intervention services as well as for current and future early intervention practitioners. In Part 1, Karis and Mike share intimate reflections about their daughter's birth and early months in the NICU; in Part 2, Karis articulately describes and illustrates the role of early intervention in their lives. Karis also describes the importance of having a coach in her corner.

Using Coaching Strategies to Engage with Families in an Early Intervention Context (external website)
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
This 33 minute video features Dr. Dathan Rush from the Family, Infant & Preschool Program discussing and presenting information about the use of coaching strategies.




Online Learning

Coaching Families
Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) – Texas
This training module is designed to support service providers in delivering evidence-
based practices. This two-hour module revisits key information fundamental to the coaching approach for service delivery, providing you with the opportunity to observe each component through video demonstrations. You will be able to utilize a coaching fidelity checklist in realistic scenarios through guided practice activities.

Introduction to Coaching in Natural Learning Environments (external website)

FIPP Center for Professional Development

This learning module provides an overview of coaching in early intervention and early childhood. The module contains a video clip that may be useful for practitioners who would like to see coaching in action.




Checklists for Providing/Receiving Early Intervention Supports in Child Care Settings (external website)
CASETOOLS – Family Infant and Preschool Program
This CASEtool includes a description of the development and use of two Checklists for Providing/Receiving Early Intervention Supports in Child Care Settings. The checklists are based on the current evidence for use of natural learning environment practices and coaching as an interaction style for building the capacity of the child care provider to promote child learning and development.





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Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center