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Building Rapport: The Importance Of Pairing

playDear Caregiver,

How exciting that your child is about to receive ABA therapy for the first time! If you’re still in the process of picking out a team, be sure to ask these questions to help you pinpoint a quality provider.

We know that it can be unnerving as you welcome unfamiliar professionals into your lives and home. How will your kiddo react to these strangers? What will the therapists demand of your sweetie? We’re writing to let you know that, when you have a top-notch team, the early days of therapy should be fun with zero pressure. You can and should expect your therapists to be solely focused on pairing with your precious at the beginning of starting ABA.

The Point Of Pairing
Pairing is a technical ABA term that essentially means building a positive rapport. Done successfully, the therapist becomes one of your Kaleb’s preferred people who he’s always stoked to see. The cooler he thinks therapist Tracy is, the more likely he is to comply and listen when she slowly starts to give instructions.

It’s hugely important for therapists to bond with your babe. When pairing is overlooked or underdone and demand is placed too early in the therapeutic process, unwanted behaviours often arise. Seeing Tracy as boring and bossy, Kaleb may bolt away from her, refuse to listen and, perhaps, scream or cry. Under those circumstances, Tracy won’t be able to implement the ABA programs your behaviour consultant created.

The Process Of Pairing
Therapist Tracy’s only job in the first few weeks is to play with Kaleb on his terms. She should follow his lead, actions and interests, lining up cars just the way he does or singing the Thomas And Friends theme song over and over. Here’s a glimpse of how a pairing session might go. And to get into his good books faster, she should also stuff her workbag with novel items he loves. Fun, fun, fun!

As Tracy gains Kaleb’s trust, she’ll slowly start to mix in gentle demands. For example, in week two, Tracy might ask your boy to clap his hands or sit down before she blows up the balloon again. And bit-by-bit, she’ll increase instructions until Kaleb is able to participate positively in his ABA programs.

While pairing eventually fades, it shouldn’t ever stop. Each session, even years into therapy, should include some non-contingent playtime between the therapist and your sweetie to maintain and foster their bond.

So, parents, remember, play is a child’s work, especially in the first stretch of therapy! If you want more like this, join our membership.

Image by David Castillo Dominici at



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  1. Pingback: ABA Pairing - How to ABA

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