Today’s Topic Tuesday comes from the Owner and Executive Director of the Recreational Education Center, Tricia Woolard. Today Tricia is tackling (say that 3 times fast!) Pairing and how our staff uses it with our clients. 

The process of building rapport with a client

What is it?

  • Active interaction and engagement
  • Instructor controls access to reinforcement
  • Initially narrating play instead of demands
  • Follows client’s motivation
  • Child learns that things are way cooler with the instructor than not being with them. 


What is it NOT?

  • Lots of demands
  • Turning a preferred activity into a demand
  • Silent, passive, parallel with no engagement
  • Totally child directed (maintain a balance)
  • High rate of escape from the child
  • Instructor does not take things; they may trade items though

The Pairing Process

1. Work with the family on preparing the environment. Highly preferred items should be removed PRIOR to the session. Some preferred items can be isolated to ONLY be accessible during sessions.

2. Initial sessions begin with non-contingent reinforcement. The child does not have to comply with a specific demand to receive reinforcement. Remember- you being there is often a demand.

3. They should receive all preferred items from the instructor.

4. Follow their lead. If they are not engaged in toys /activities, model how other items work, start playing with different toys. Be present and attentive.

5. Be fun and engaging. Talk to the child. Make sound effects. DO NOT BE SILENT.

6. As the child gets comfortable which may take several sessions. You will GRADUALLY start to increase demands.

7. Increasing demands will look different for every child. It could be utilizing First/Then language to gain compliance over 1 task. Or maybe the child could engage in a longer expectation. Your BCBA will help you determine how to increase demands.

8. Thereafter, pairing should start out each session. Show the child you are excited to be there and you have fun things for them to gain access to during your interactions.

9. If a session is not going well, look at what you have for reinforcement and re-assess. Try new items. They may not be motivated by what you are offering. Remember to be the person delivering the item though so they continue to see YOU as reinforcing.




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