Meeting new people always has its uncertainties. Will they like me? Will I like them? We are typically on our best behaviors and try really hard not to rock the boat. I mean, it's all about first impressions right? In therapy, we give the same kind of courtesy to the kids as well.
I'm always nervous on my first session. Will they like me? Will I like them? So, we play. The whole first session and the majority of the first week. By doing this, I am building a relationship with your child, something that we refer to in therapy as rapport building. If you think about it, you're not as open to new people until you get to know them. It’s the same with your child. Once your child gets to know the therapist (and vice versa), expectations can then be set by adding more challenging tasks and demands.
Do you remember our talk on following through? We have to keep our promises in order to build trust. Part of having a relationship is making sure that the other party holds up their end of the bargain. If your child did their work, you may take him to the play in the park. If you read their favorite book, he may give you sweet cuddles while you read. Part of keeping rapport is the follow through and consistency.
So, what happens when we lose rapport? In spite of our best efforts, it still happens, and when it does, it's frustrating. In my case, I pushed my client too hard. I knew he had the skill set to do whatever task I asked him to do, but I stubbornly pushed too hard. I didn't lower the high bar I set out for him, and the reward I promised didn't come quickly enough. After that moment, I found it difficult to complete simple tasks or even play together.
Like I said, it's frustrating. When I realized I lost rapport, I took him to McDonald's. It completely surprised him because it wasn’t part of our regular routine, but he had fun anyway. I had to show him I was still the fun therapist he knew, and it worked! After that our sessions ran better because I was able to re-establish our relationship. He did ask to go to McDonalds again, but I let him know that it will happen again one day even if it was not today. I also made sure I kept my word.
On the same note, I want to mention pre-session pairing. I ran across an article by Kelly et. al (2015) showing pre-session pairing to be effective when asking your child to follow through. Instead of diving into a challenging task right off the bat, you begin with something small and fun, then ease them into an unpreferred task. It shows that you're an awesome person, but that you also mean business.
Do you see a pattern here? Maintaining a strong relationship is important when it comes to follow through. If you find it tough to follow through with different tasks, think about stirring things up and trying something fun first. You’ll be glad you did!
Click below to download the reinforcer checklist from the resource library. The checklist focuses on your child's favorite things. It's amazing what you find when youwrite it all down. I encourage you to try new things and observe while playing.
Kelly, A. N., Axe, J. B., Allen, R. F. & Maguire, R. W. (2015). Effects of presession pairing on the challenging behavior and academic responding of children with autism. Behavior Interventions, 30 (2), 135-156. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bin.1408.