Building a Social Connection by "Joining"
"Joining" is a great approach for building a social connection with your children or students. With joining, we observe the child or student to see what activities they find interesting (particularly their "stims") and then we do the same activity alongside them (but we're doing the activity independently, just nearby to the student). If you're familiar with the concept of parallel play, it seems slightly similar. We do this to show the student that we enjoy the same activities they do (and we genuinely try to enjoy the activity and find the same joy in the activity that the student does).
I love joining because I think it affirms to my students that their behaviors are not only okay, but they're so fantastic that I want to do them too. It's awesome how much this builds trust and I often find that my students will approach me and start to do the activity with me on their own with no prompting.
Note: this is my "unofficial" definition/description of joining, as I'm not certified in the Son-Rise methodology, of which joining is a part. For more official information, see the links at the end of this post.
Here are a couple of examples of joining that I used with my students:
One day one of my students and I were using Lego to illustrate a vocabulary word we were working on. Before that activity, I gave my student a few minutes of free play with the blocks before we started the activity. I noticed that he started building a tower and decided this was a good time for joining. I started building my own tower and eventually he started adding blocks to my tower and building with me as a cooperative activity, with no prompting on my part.
On another day, we were getting ready to play the game "Kerplunk" and he started stacking the sticks and shaking them around. I started stacking and shaking my sticks in a similar way. A few moments later, he noticed what I was doing and started adding his sticks to my stack and smiling at me. He then made all of the sticks crash down together, while smiling and laughing.
These were such fun moments of connection, which is what I love about joining. I think it's so fun for our students when we join in their world and the things they think are really cool, even if we just do so for a few minutes, then go back to playing our or doing another activity. It really helps build a social connection between you and your students and gives you a glimpse into the things they find beautiful and interesting.
For more information about how to do joining accurately, please consult these resources. It seems easy (and it is), but there are some important considerations and strategies you want to use that I haven't listed here, so some additional reading and/or training is needed to use this strategy effectively.
Son Rise Program Website (their online training program is amazing!): https://autismtreatmentcenter.org/
Joining Tips Video: