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A Framework for Parent Education & Training

We all know as practitioners that best therapy outcomes are associated with parent involvement, especially in the early intervention population. Yet, many therapists do not actively include caregivers in their therapy sessions. Rather many will debrief families during the last 10-minutes of the session. I am often perplexed by this therapy model as I wonder if that is enough to make a difference. I suppose one could argue that it depends on that parent’s learning style. Perhaps simply explaining what to do could be enough for some. However, everyone regardless of age tends to have a specific and individualized learning style. Some people learn by watching others perform a task, some learn by being told how to perform a task, while others learn by simply doing the task while receiving performance feedback.

It seems to ensure that best outcome for families, that practitioners should consider all learning styles when providing parent education and training. A framework that works well when training parents during therapy sessions is Behavior Skills Training (BST). Behavior Skills Training is an evidence-based method used to provide instruction that encompasses both performance and competency.

BST consists of four parts: instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback. For a free Behavior Skills Training Infographic, click here.

Instruction: “Tell Them”

Provide clear information as to the purpose or goal of the skills that you are teaching, as well as easy to remember instructions. Be sure to check for comprehension to ensure understanding. Provide these instructions in both a verbal and visual format to aid the parent in remembering the steps later.

Modeling: “Show Them”

Provide a model of what it is that you want the parent to do. Describe the steps of the task, or the strategies you are using while you are performing the task or implementing the strategies. Solicit and respond to questions that the parent may have.

Rehearsal: “Let Them”

Once the parent understands the instruction and has had an opportunity to observe you performing the skill, it is time for the parent to practice what they’ve learned. Provide multiple teaching opportunities if needed.

Feedback: “Guide Them”

While observing the parent practice, offer both positive and constructive feedback on their performance. Provide specific feedback for correct implementation as well as specific corrective feedback. Allow the parent the opportunity to rehearse or practice again if there are areas that can be improved and plan for next steps.

To learn more about Behavior Skills Training and how to incorporate this framework into your practice, check out The Autism Outreach Podcast Episode #031where I discuss using the BST framework in therapy sessions with host, Rose Griffin: Episode #031: Parent Training and Speech Therapy with Nikki McRory - ABA Speech


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