Saturday, December 17, 2011

Systematic Incidental Teaching

We have not yet secured funding to study the effects of teaching parents to use systematic incidental teaching. So here’s where we stand on related research:

Amy Casey and I have shown that it is possible to train early childhood teachers to increase their rate of incidental teaching:
Casey, A. M., & McWilliam, R. A. (2008). Graphical feedback to increase teachers' use of incidental teaching. Journal of Early Intervention, 30, 251-268.
Ann Kaiser has shown that it’s possible to teach parents to use milieu language interventions, which include incidental teaching:
She has also shown that parent-implemented milieu teaching has a positive impact on children’s social communication:
These researchers have shown that it’s possible to train parent trainers in the use of milieu teaching:

…it goes on. You might ask Why aren’t you just teaching parents this “milieu teaching”? Because most of the training was done in a lab setting and the outcomes were communication ones only. We want to “train” parents in the home for all kinds of outcomes, across routines and domains. The essence of milieu teaching (teaching in context, following children’s interests, eliciting more sophisticated behavior) is also the essence of SIT.

Many states face the issue of therapists’ POLITICAL claims that the routines-based, family-centered approach is watering down services or even denying services to families . They might believe what they’re saying, but those beliefs are wrong and might be a consequence of cognitive dissonance: They have to believe what they believe, otherwise they lose money and professional face. Unfortunately, they don’t listen when we say that the routines-based approach actually increases the importance of therapists, because we need them to support the natural workforce (regular caregivers) and the paid workforce. It’s easy to do therapy with a child in a distraction-free environment; it’s hard as hell to figure out the right interventions to teach to lay people that fit into their lives. So weariness or laziness also must factor in to their claims.

The key about how to support families effectively lies more in the family consultation approach than in SIT, which is really content (i.e., a skill we teach families). The method for teaching families is family consultation. Although I have developed this model for early intervention specifically, the roots are found in existing research on parent-implemented early language intervention (again—sorry!, variables that influence collaborative relationships (, and vocational programming ( Again, we haven’t yet secured funding to study family consultation per se. It’s almost impossible to get the Institute of Education Sciences to fund studies with family behaviors as the outcomes.

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