In the field of applied behavioral analysis building rapport or “pairing” with the child is a vital step in early intervention. What is pairing? Pairing is when you pair yourself with reinforcement. This creates a positive therapeutic relationship between both therapist and child through the delivery of desired edible incentives, attention, or activities without the presence of demands (Lugo et al., 2018). The end goal of this process is that the child wants to see you and your company is liked. When the child finds you reinforcing by your presence, attention, and praise, they will be more motivated to comply with your demands.
Below are five easy steps to help you pair yourself with the child to make sessions both fun and effective.
- Take a honest interest in what the child likes. During this step, you find out what the child enjoys and join in the activity with them. For example, if the child is playing with a kitchen set, ask if they would want to be the server or customer and role-play dining scenarios. Another useful tip during this time would be to ask them what their favorite food is, where they like to go to eat, etc.
- Preference assessments help to identify possible reinforcers for the child. There are multiple ways to conduct these but some simple ways would be to ask the child or ask people who know the child such as their parents or guardians.
- Use preferred items during therapy sessions. If the child likes to play Zingo, have them label a function of a particular item in the room when they match a chip to their board.
- Make learning fun
- While working with the child, provide opportunities of turning “work” into games. You can turn a scavenger hunt to assist the child in recognizing colors, numbers, or finding items based on their features. There can be more enjoyable ways to help achieve their goals to keep the child motivated to learn.
- Never stop pairing
- The process of pairing should be a continuous process that never ends and should be acted on during every session. The sessions then become something the child looks forward to which makes the therapy sessions more gratifying for both you and the client.
Building rapport through pairing is helpful in not only developing a positive therapeutic setting for both parties, but it can also help in decreasing problematic behavior.
ABA pairing. (2020, November 17). Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://howtoaba.com/aba-pairing/
Lugo, A. M., King, M. L., Lamphere, J. C., & McArdle, P. E. (2017). Developing Procedures to Improve Therapist-Child Rapport in Early Intervention. Behavior analysis in practice, 10(4), 395–401. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-016-0165-5
Lugo, A. M., McArdle, P. E., King, M. L., Lamphere, J. C., Peck, J. A., & Beck, H. J. (2018). Effects of Presession Pairing on Preference for Therapeutic Conditions and Challenging Behavior. Behavior analysis in practice, 12(1), 188–193. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-018-0268-2