When beginning to work with a child with autism spectrum disorder, specifically in the field of applied behavior analysis, it is very important to build “rapport.” Rapport building is basically building a positive relationship with that individual.

This is meant to create a positive foundation so that when learning demands are placed upon the child, the child will be more likely to comply with demands. The child will also willingly approach the behavior technician, which is a great sign that the child “prefers” this behavior technician and is consenting to working with this particular person.

Although with young children, consent is formally given from the caregivers in order for treatment to take place, it is also important to have the child’s assent. We don’t want to create an atmosphere of forcing a child to comply with learning taks. Instead, we want to create an environment where the child is a willing participant in the learning process.

Here are a few great references for learning more about rapport building:

“I Love ABA!: Pairing & Building Rapport”

Here is an excerpt from the above referenced article:

  • Pairing is a term that ABA professionals often use to describe the process of building rapport with a client. Therapy often begins with intentional and thorough pairing, where its ALL about what the client loves and making that available to them on a non-contingent basis (jargon defined: for FREE). When done correctly, the client will see the ABA professional walk through the door and connect that to receiving good things.

BSci21: How to Get Your Client to Listen to You

Here is a short excerpt from the BSci21 article:

  • So how do you pair with a client? Here are some basic guidelines and tips, all of which can be modified when working with different age groups, and especially applicable to a therapeutic or teaching relationship.

    Environmental Changes All of the things the client likes should be in your possession, so you become the person they approach to access the goodies! Remember not to require the client to ask you (i.e., mand) for the item you have.

    Use Potential Reinforcers Interview parents, teachers, and caregivers to find out what the client likes, ask them to fill out a potential reinforcer profile, and observe your client. Then use those items, activities, and edibles during your pairing session. For example, if you find out your client loves the park, take her to the park and play with her.If youve got what she likes, shes more likely to approach you!

    Absolutely No Demands During the first few pairing sessions, no instructions necessary! The point of pairing with your client is to build rapport, to get him to like you, and establish instructional control. If youre the one who always tells them to do something, they may not like hanging out with you as much!

    Pairing, Pairing, and some more Pairing When working with a client, it is not sufficient to pair for the first few sessions and hope youre client always likes you, the materials, or the environment. Practitioners should be pairing, at least for a few minutes, every day.

    Have Fun Play with your client, HOW he wants to play. If your client likes to line up blocks (and not build with them), then line them up with him.

    Gradually Increase Demands When you first start working with a client, spend more time pairing with your client, no need to rush into giving instructions. As you build rapport, slowly introduce instructions in a way that the client may not even realize youve switched to working.

    Use Verbal Modeling When youre giving the client the item, name it (i.e., label) so clients who are developing a verbal repertoire hear what the item is called. But dont make them say it, remember, its fun times for the client!

ABA Skills Training Building Rapport Video