Step 2.3 Establish motivation through shared control and turn taking

Creating shared control is an important step in establishing the toddler’s motivation to respond. Shared control also assists in obtaining the toddler’s attention. The concept of shared control generally has to do with both the adult and child playing important roles in the learning interaction. Shared control also helps to set up, or establish, a situation where natural reinforcers can be provided contingent on attempts at target behaviors (see Natural Reinforcers). Sometimes this is called briefly “restricting access” to a child chosen item or activity.

Ways of creating shared control in order to increase a toddler’s attending and establish a toddler’s motivation to interact and try during the learning opportunity:

Take turns

Turn taking is a natural way to set up a contingency and provide appropriate models. Once parents and practitioners have established that the toddler is interested in engaging with a certain item or in a certain activity in the moment, then they are ready to set up shared control. By taking a turn, parents and practitioners are not only teaching the toddler turn taking, but also setting up an opportunity for another learning interaction, whereby the toddler is given another turn contingent on an attempted response (see Natural Reinforcers). Appropriate models (e.g., play actions and comments on play) are also provided on the parent or practitioner’s turn.

Manage materials and "in-sight and out-of-reach"

Have child-preferred materials in a container or kept in-sight of the toddler, but out of their reach. The chosen materials are brought out one at a time and piece by piece. This allows for shared control of the materials. The adult controls the flow and delivery of the toddler chosen items and activities contingent on desired response attempts by the toddler. This environmental arrangement helps establish motivation throughout play or a daily routine.

Create (or wait for) opportunities where the child needs adult assistance

Parents and practitioners are good at knowing when a toddler needs assistance and may complete the assistance without expecting a response from the toddler. Instead, in PRT they create shared control and use these times as learning opportunities!

Interrupt a routine

Interrupt a routine and complete the routine contingent on a desired response by the toddler is another way to establish motivation through shared control. Instead of the toddler having full control over the routine, a practitioner and toddler share control of it. If possible, interruption should be natural and playful, versus abrupt and overly contrived.

Break up natural reinforcers and provide “bit-by-bit”

Break up learning stimuli and natural reinforcers, and provide just a bit at a time, thus allowing for more opportunities to create those motivational shared control situations

Provide choices in selecting an activity and which parts of a task the toddler

might complete

Shared control learning interactions also involves providing choices in activities and tasks. For instance, although at first the toddler’s interests will be followed, they will likely be followed within appropriate boundaries set by the parent of practitioner. As seen in prior examples, the parent or practitioner also chooses what responses are expected of the toddler during PRT learning opportunities. Further, as an older toddler progresses, it may be the case that the parent or practicioner and the toddler take turns in choosing among preferred and neutral activities. Within a given task demand, there also may be shared control over which parts of the task or routine will be completed by the toddler versus the parent or practitioner, or how the task will be completed.