As early intervention SLPs, we know the importance of teaching parents to use language facilitation strategies (see the Heidlage & Roberts meta-analyses we discuss in the last bullet point, here). We also know the value of shared book reading as a context for language learning. These researchers decided to take a close look at the process of teaching parents to use naturalistic language strategies during book reading. To do this, they taught two mothers, one with a three-year-old with ASD and one with a 5-year-old with cerebral palsy, two sets of strategies.
The first set of strategies was engagement strategies for parents to use before, during, and after reading books.
Before book reading:
Say the title and author (e.g. “This book is called ____ and is written by ____.”)
Ask a question to build interest (e.g. “What do you think this book is about?”)
During book reading:
Make encouraging statements (e.g. “I like how you’re sitting so nicely with me!” “Good job turning the page.”)
Use nonverbal and verbal means to focus the child’s attention (e.g. point to a picture and say, “Look! It’s a gorilla!”)
After book reading:
Ask a closing question to maintain interest, or relate the book to the child’s life (e.g. “Which animal makes a funny sound, a cow or a sheep? Why? What sound does our dog make?”)
The second set of strategies was components of the intervention program Parent-Implemented Communication Strategies (PiCS) (Meadan et al. 2014).
Modeling: demonstrate a word, phrase, or gesture with the expectation that the child will imitate (e.g. “Turn the page”)
Mand–model: in addition to the model, use a verbal prompt in the form of a question (e.g. “What do you want?”), a choice (e.g. “Should we read the cat book or the tractor book?”), or a command (e.g. “Say ‘turn the page”).
Time delay: pause within an established routine to give the child an opportunity to initiate communication (e.g. label all of the pictures on a page except for one, point to the last picture, and look expectantly at the child for five seconds).
They taught parents these strategies via two initial teaching sessions followed by 12 weeks of twice-a-week coaching sessions. The two initial teaching sessions included reviewing the material, watching example videos, role-playing, and feedback. The coaching sessions used the following format:
The researcher reviewed the target strategy
The researcher provided feedback on the previous session using a video clip, giving direct positive and constructive feedback
The mother and child engaged together in shared storybook reading while the researcher observed
The mother reflected on her own use of the strategies, and the researcher provided suggestions and feedback. Together, they problem-solved any concerns or issues
The researchers found a connection between the mothers’ use of the PiCS strategies and the child’s communication, providing support for teaching parents to use the PiCS strategies during shared book reading. They also found that the hands-on practice/coaching component was key for the mothers to use the PiCS strategies successfully. Because we EI SLPs are already familiar with the strategies that were taught to the parents in this study, this is definitely something we can use in our sessions!