When you are meeting the learner, or it is the first-time meeting, it is important to first focus on pairing. That means that the learner will have access to preferred activities through you (and not free access). When you have successfully paired yourself, the learner will become motivated to follow your lead and think of you as the fun person every time they see you. Pairing is very important in order to establish and maintain instructional control. But how do you successfully pair yourself? For this technique, here are the top 3 tips for a successful pairing:
- Show the learner that you are fun!
If this is the first time meeting your learner, the first session is building rapport, getting to know the learner, and learning what they enjoy. During that first session, it is all about having fun! If the learner is doing an activity, join in and play with them. We want to demonstrate that their favorite activities can be even more fun when we join in. Following each session, you must continue that positive energy, so the learner continues to view you as the fun person.
For example, I remember with my young learner that I started each session with a fun activity or joined in with what their playing. During one session when I enter the household, I noticed my learner was playing with puzzles. Playing with puzzles was an activity that I knew my learner loved to do, even by himself. After completing my preparations, I went to my learner and join in on their puzzle time. During that play time I acted silly, playful, and enthusiastic, which my learner really loved. I also included simple instructions related to the puzzle activity such as, “Ooh where does this piece go?”, “How about this one?”, and “Wow! What did you make?” After each positive response my learner made, I would then enthusiastically praise their response and added tickles. This demonstrated to my learner that their favorite activity can be even more fun when I join in. And with adding that extra fun, it became easier to provide instructions.
- Notice the tone your learner responds positively to
When you are starting to pair, observe what tone your learner responds more positively to when you interact and praise them. Does your learner respond best to a playful and excited voice, such as, “That was wonderful!!” or “You did it!!” Or does your learner respond best to a calm tone when being praised, such as, “You’re on a roll.” or “You’re amazing at this.” Based on the tone your learner responds more positively best to, roll with that tone during your interactions and praises for pairing.
- Be proactive by maintaining access to the reinforcers
To be proactive in maintaining access to the learner’s reinforcers, this requires environmental arrangement. This means that you are arranging the space in the learner’s environment by moving teaching materials and the location of the reinforcers to your advantage. By arranging your space, it is then THROUGH YOU that the learner must request access in order to have those items. This is very important for the process of pairing.
For example, during the middle of my session with my young learner we were about to practice writing and I was proactive by placing the markers next to me. I was enthusiastic when I asked my learner, “What color do you want to pick?” When my learner selected the color orange, I praised their choice and handed them their chosen marker. Later, when my learner requested for a blue marker, I enthusiastically responded, “That’s a great color too! First-hand me orange marker, then we get blue.” My learner handed me the orange marker and we were back to what we were doing. Even when I had control of the access to the materials and reinforcers, I still demonstrated that I can still be fun and playful.