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How to Use Positive Reinforcement to Support Your Child's Early Communication Skills

If a child does something (smiles, gurgles, cries, screams, reaches, says a word)  that is immediately followed by a positive event (smile from parent, kind words, attention  laughter, hug, sweet, etc,), this action will reoccur over and over again.


Your child learns to do things by the positive consequences that follow.


The behaviour will happen again and again in the presence of the adult who delivered the positive consequence and in the presence of other adults also, especially if they also deliver positive consequences.

                                                              The       “Yes …….and “    Paradigm

This is very important to remember when teaching your child new skills. It’s very helpful to think about the “Yes and” paradigm when thinking about Positive Reinforcement. Every communication signal that your child emits (smile, gurgle, reach , word, etc)…, should be followed by a communication signal from you… that is the “yes” and what that looks like is

You perhaps imitating, what they did, or add another action or imitate and deliver verbal affirmation at the same time



Examples of pairing at Stage 3

Pairing means finding some object or event (song, activity, play routine i.e. tickles or lifting high in the air), that your baby really likes. These are called motivators. Using these motivators by adding them in to the “you do” piece will help your baby to engage with the skills you are helping him to learn.

See some examples below


The reinforcer assessment process;

The key to pairing is to figure out what are the things your baby loves to hear, see or do with you.

The process of finding those things out is called a reinforcer assessment. If you are finding it hard to figure out your baby's motivators spend some time simply observing them in the natural environment. Observe what types of sounds and activities that they regularly orientate towards. Assess how much they enjoy certain events (gentle tickles, being lifted high in the air, certain songs,…). Your baby’s interest and motivators will change, increase and wane over time. The preference assessment process is an on-going one, and simply involves keeping a daily  mental note of the new and novel reinforcers that your baby orientates to and shows enjoyment and engagement with.