Ask any 3 families what bathtime is like for their child, and you’ll get 3 different responses. For one family, bathtime might be a long, fun, wet playtime each night for the parent and child. For another, it might be a very busy time of bathing 3 young children, getting them in and out of the tub and to bed. For the third family, bathtime might happen every other day with the child bathed after lunch while sitting in the sink.
Say you give the same communication strategy to each of these families to try at bathtime; HOW it’s implemented will look differently for each family. The first family might find it fits well and use the strategy every night. The second family might find it very difficult to remember to use the strategy, to squeeze it in during their very busy routine. The third family might not use the strategy very often, but could use it if they were helped in planning for another routine that happens more frequently.
Routines-based intervention is regarded as best practice in early intervention because we know that embedding strategies in everyday routines results in increased opportunities for the child to learn. When you think about family routines, you can think general or specific. If you think more generally, you might think that all families eat meals, have snack times, change the child’s diaper throughout the day, give their children baths, etc. While this is generally true, HOW each routines works for each family will be unique. In order to really understand how each family’s unique routine works, you’ve got to ask specific questions to find out what makes them tick.
Here are 6 questions to help you focus intervention.
1. How does bathtime work for you and your child? Tell me about what happens before, during, and after bathtime.
Use this question to explore the specifics of the routine. It’s always best if you can actually observe the routine, but if not, these questions can help you think it through too. Think more broadly than just the routine; explore what happens before and after it, especially when a routine is difficult for the family.
2. Which parts of bathtime do you think go well? Not so well? Why?
Help the parent reflect on his/her thoughts about the routine, rather than making assumptions. These types of questions help parents learn to think through how to solve problems and use strategies during routines on their own.
3. What do you do during bathtime? What does your child do? Why?
Finding out what each person does (or doesn’t do) during the routine can provide great insight into interactions and expectations.
4. What does Sam like to do during bathtime? What does he not not like to do?
Finding out what the child likes to do helps you and the parent build intervention around the child’s interests and what is naturally motivating. It also can help you and the parent figure out where the problems are and what might be causing them.
5. If you could change one part of bathtime, what would it be? Why?
This question also promotes the parent’s ability to problem-solve and plan for using strategies independently. That’s our goal, afterall.
6. How do you think Sam could learn to ______ during bathtime?
Rather than providing all of the answers, help the parent think through how a strategy could work, what the child could learn, etc. Parents have some fantastic ideas and know the child best.
7. What strategy would you like to try during bathtime this week?
Always purposefully plan with the parent for how to use strategies between visits. Encourage the parent to identify which strategy(ies) he/she wants to try. Plan together for how the strategy will be implemented and check back in about how it went at the next visit.
Of course, you can substitute “bathtime” in these questions for any routine you and the family are exploring. If you keep in mind that you are there to help the family think through how to support the child, rather than being the expert with all of the answers, you’ll find that intervention strategies become more individualized because you and the parent work together to figure out what to do. With this individualized approach, you’ll be taking routines-based intervention to a deeper, more meaningful level!
What specific questions do you ask when talking with families about their routines? What do you ask when you are observing or joining a routine? Share your questions in the chat below!