Caregivers: Building Rapport One Block at a Time

Ever wonder why your ABA therapist is just playing with your child? Or why they are giving them everything they ask for? Well, believe it or not, they are applying the principles of ABA. During this time, that seems the opposite of constructive, the ABA therapist is conditioning themself as a reinforcer. This is also known as building rapport or pairing.

Why is this so important? Have you ever had to work with someone you do not like? The answer is yes. Now imagine you are told you have to work with that individual and they just start telling you what to do. How would that make you feel? Most likely you will be irritated, mad, or annoyed. Now imagine you cannot express those feelings with contextually appropriate behavior. Instead, you turn to contextually inappropriate because such as tantrums, aggression, elopement, or screaming. This sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Well, instead of having your child experience all of this we focus first on pairing.

A fun example I have for pairing was when I had to be an armadillo. When I began working with a client they did not look at me, respond to me, or follow any directions until one day he asked me to “roll like an armadillo”. So, what did I do? Rolled like an armadillo. Once I spent a few days rolling like an armadillo he started to look at me, respond to me, ask questions, and follow directions I would would vocalize. After being an armadillo for a few days straight I was then able to run a more structured session and was able to use being an armadillo as reinforcement. If I had never rolled like an armadillo there is a high probability I would not have been able to run a structured session without some major meltdown.

Do you have a picky eater? Guess what, pairing is a great tool to use. With a picky eater, you can use pairing by pairing a nonpreferred food with a preferred food. This could increase the amount of food your child will eat. Another example is what we call a potty party. If you have a child who refuses to go into the bathroom or sit on the toilet you can pair the bathroom and toilet by giving access to their preferred items and activities while they are in the bathroom and on the toilet. By doing this you are pairing the bathroom with a fun time instead of it being not fun.

It is all about the pair!

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Picture of Brittney Farley

Brittney Farley

Determined, dedicated, tenacious, empowering and reliable are often words used to describe Dr. Britt Farley. Dr. B has spent that last decade practicing, researching, supervising and teaching in the field of behavior analysis. She has provided behavior support in a variety of settings specializing in 18-months to 9-years-old with little to no vocal communication. Her research has focused on telehealth in the field of ABA, remote staff training, using ABA in volunteerism, and the military population affected by an ASD diagnosis.

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