Simon and Garfunkel
There was a bit of a mix-up at work today which meant that there wasn’t someone to cover for a new client coming to the clinic. I got to stand in this afternoon on the fly and had a brief second to familiarize myself with their likes, interests etc. So, while mom talked to the doctor and other clinicians, I pulled out these personal touches and quickly associated myself as the giver of good things. This client did not know me from any other person off the street; yet, we were going to hang out for a bit and keep ourselves occupied. Offering these items was one way I welcomed her into the new space and could establish the relationship of “we’ll do fun things together and good things will happen”.
When we meet with a client for the first time, behaviour therapists/analysts will often associate themselves with some of the client’s preferred items and activities. There are very little demands other than to come check out what we have to offer in terms of fun activities and tangible items. This is known as pairing. Before we can expect a person to participate in the learning and to co-operate with tasks, the person has to trust that we’re nice people and are the giver of good things a.k.a. reinforcers. It can be a smile, a high five for a job well done, a little dance to ‘Cecilia’ or a break to get some chocolate milk. All of this happens before any of the harder, less preferred stuff begins. This way, when the tasks get harder, it is well established that we are here to help and we will reinforce them along the way.
Reinforcers come in all shapes, sizes and contexts and are often readily available in your environment. Making use of these items or activities when establishing or renewing a teaching relationship with someone is key to a learner’s success and their willingness to work with us. Without reinforcement, there is no learning.
What were your reinforcers today?