Pairing With Learners To Gain Trust

All learners have the right to communicate what they want and need. Before teaching vocal speaking skills, we need to teach our learners the prerequisite skills needed. When a child comes into our clinic or classroom, they don’t automatically trust us. As the adult in the room, we need to take the time to teach the learner that we are here for support, we are caring, we want to see them succeed, and that we are here to teach them the necessary skills to be independent and successful members of their community. The adults in the room should not be focused on teaching students that they’re the boss, or act as as authoritarian that students comply out of fear. The adults should be there for support and increase a child’s want to learn.

I have had a lot of children come into my classroom or join a caseload and I was lucky enough to be a part of their first day. It should be an exciting day when a learner is starting something new and their families see them expand on their experiences. I think of myself as a bubbly and outgoing person, but I was quickly put in my place with many of my students and children that I have worked with that I am not automatically loved by all. Many students have cried or simply avoided me on their first few days of being under my care. This is when I learned that I needed to gain rapport and pair with these children before I could be trusted or wanted to be around. On the first day of meeting me, there is no reason for them to want to interact with me or participate in the awesome lessons and activities that I have planned. As Sasha always says, I had to learn how to be the chocolate chip cookie. I had to do this and then it was my responsibility to train my team.
The first step was pairing and gaining rapport. Pairing is an aspect of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that helps form and maintain rapport with a child by combining the learning environment with established reinforcement. We want our learners to need or want to interact with us. One way is to block access and contrive situations where preferred items are not in their reach or freely accessible. As the instructor, be the deliverer of really fun items/activities. All preferred materials should be delivered by the instructor. There are some resources available that help break down how to pair and gain rapport with a child which can be found at How to ABA.
After pairing and the learner is showing independence in approaching staff or initiating interactions, that shows that they have paired. My team will slowly introduce demands and directives and then begin to increase the duration or amount of demands that are followed until reinforcement. This happens all throughout our ime with the learner. Pairing isn’t something that is gained and then over. My team and I are always working on our rapport and trust with our learners. It gets easier as they begin to work and understand the contingencies we set.

Where do we go after we’ve paired?

Although we want to introduce more social skills training for our learners who may be avoiding others, both adults and peers, pairing should never just end. Each new day and new session should be started and ended with pairing and continuation of relationship building is necessary. After there is data that shows that a learner has paired with all adults in their environment, the following are goals that may be worked on:

  • Joint attention
  • Tolerating adults in space
  • Tolerating parallel play with staff
  • tolerating peers in space
  • Structured toy play schemes
  • Imitation with objects
  • Imitating staff play
  • Imitating peer play
  • Sharing and trading with an adult
  • Sharing and trading with peers
  • Greetings
  • Commenting on play


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