Every wonder why you 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 do not have the ability to express those feelings with contextually appropriate behavior. Instead you turn to contextually inappropriate because such as tantrum, aggression, elopement, or screaming. This sounds horrible doesn’t it? Well, instead of having you child experience all of this we focus first on pairing.
A fun example I have for pariring 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 would never of 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!