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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Parent Coaching: Using a Coaching Approach in ABA Parent Training

Parent Involvement is Key

Teaching parents is repeatedly recommended throughout the academic and scientific literature when it comes to helping children manage behaviors and learn new skills.

Use of a Parent Coaching Approach

One approach to helping parents become more intentional in their efforts to help their children is to use ‘parent coaching.’

Sometimes the idea of parent training may seem more like the professional is simply leading the services and passing on knowledge from themselves to the parent with less emphasis on the parent guiding the services.

However, the service of parent training can be approached in a variety of ways. This includes to utilize a coaching approach. In this way, the professional is allowing the parent to guide services and involves a collaboration between the professional and parent.

The Parent Takes the Lead

A parent coaching approach to parent training includes allowing the parent to be the primary decision maker in what is addressed and accomplished within the services.

In a parent coaching model, the focus is on the parent-child relationship. The professional supports the parent as the parent interacts with specific intentions with their child.


Parent coaching, as well as general parent training, aims to build a parent’s capacity to implement behavior change strategies with their child.

Coaching with parents involves allowing parents to guide their learning, to actively participate in their goals, and to practice problem-solving as well as to reflect on their experiences.

Example of a Coaching Approach

One systematic approach for utilizing coaching practices in parent training includes the following steps (Sawyer and Campbell, 2012):

  • discussion
  • demonstration with narrative
  • caregiver practice with feedback


Discussion refers to back and forth communication with the parent which includes active listening, questioning, and sharing information.

Demonstration with Narrative

Demonstration with narrative refers to the professional modeling the intervention with the child as well as giving the parents an explanation of what they are doing.

Caregiver Practice with Feedback

Caregiver practice with feedback refers to the parent practicing the skill with the professional providing feedback and guidance as needed.

Connection to Behavioral Skills Training

This approach is surprisingly similar to what is known as Behavioral Skills Training (BST) in the field of applied behavior analysis.

BST is a training approach which consists of giving instructions (similar to discussion in the above coaching approach), modeling (similar to the second step above), rehearsal, and feedback. Rehearsal and feedback make up the third step in the coaching approach above.

Parent Training with Parent Coaching

Parent coaching is a method of guiding parents through development of skills to help their child change behaviors and improve skills. Parent coaching can be utilized systematically within parent training services in applied behavior analysis.

This article gave just a brief introduction to parent coaching but gives you some tips that you can begin to think about as you work with parents to help improve the quality of life of their child, for them as an individual, and for their family as a whole.


Brown, J. (2012). Exploring Coaching Strategies in a Parent-Implemented Intervention for Toddlers. Dissertation. Florida State University.

Parent Coaching: Using a Coaching Approach in ABA Parent Training

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Parent Coaching: Using a Coaching Approach in ABA Parent Training. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from