Family Coaching Model

Rush and Shelden Family Coaching Principles

As a specialty support program within the Connecticut Birth-to-Three System of early intervention providers, the American School for the Deaf (ASD) Birth-to-Three Program follows their research-supported practices of providing services within a Natural Learning Environment, Coaching parents as a style of interaction and using the Primary Service Provider Approach to teaming.
In Connecticut, Birth-to-Three services are based on the following practices:
The Connecticut Birth to Three system ( promotes the use of the following research-supported practices: Natural Learning Environment practices, Coaching as a style of interaction, and Primary Service Provider approach to teaming.

Natural Learning Environments

Natural environments are more than places where children live, learn, and play. Natural learning environment practices start with looking at the activities children participate in during their everyday life at home and in the community. These everyday activities provide learning opportunities, which, in turn, lead to increased participation and skill development for the child. (1) Researchers in the field of early childhood have identified that children learn best when they are participating in these naturally occurring learning opportunities that are a part of everyday routines and activities within the real life of their families and other children they know.(2,3,4)

2 Dunst, C. J., Bruder, M. B., Trivette, C. M., Raab, M., & McLean, M. (2001). Natural learning opportunities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Young Exceptional Children, 4(3), 18-25. (Erratum in Young Exceptional Children, 4(4), 25)

3 Shelden, M. L., & Rush, D. D. (2001). The ten myths about providing early intervention services in natural environments. Infants & Young Children, 14(1), 1-13.


The coaching style of interaction is based on adult learning principles and is a way to interact with parents, caregivers and other team members to build their confidence and competence in order to enhance child learning and development within the typical activities of the family. It fosters problem solving and planning for actions the parent will take to support their child’s development and learning.(1)
The role of the coach (Early Interventionist) is to “identify the parent’s priorities for their child’s development, determine what they already know and are doing in relation to their child’s development, share new information and ideas, and then work together to support the child’s participation and expression of interest within everyday activity settings to provide opportunities for learning.”(2)
1 Rush D. D., Shelden, M. L. (2011) The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Co. (p. 8)

2 Rush D. D., Shelden, M. L. (2011) The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook.Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Co. (pp 9-12)

Primary Service Provider

In order to support and build capacity in parents, our system values a Primary Service Provider (PSP) approach to teaming. This means that every child and every family have a full team supporting and available to them, but one person functions as the primary support for the family. As described by Rush & Shelden (1), a Primary Service Provider approach to teaming includes:
  • an established team consisting of multiple disciplines
  • meeting regularly and selecting one member to act as the PSP to the family
  • using coaching as an interaction style with parents, caregivers and other team members
  • strengthening parents confidence and competence in promoting child learning and development
  • supporting parents competence in obtaining desired supports and resources
  • providing all services and supports within the natural learning opportunities/activities of the family
1 Shelden, M. L., Rush D. D. (2013) The Early Intervention Teaming Handbook: The Primary Service Provider Approach. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Co. (p. 12)

The American School for the Deaf serves deaf and hard of hearing individuals from birth through adulthood with a variety of programs and services.