What is Building Rapport?

When first starting Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) sessions, or if there are any changes in service providers, you should hear your Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Registered Behavior Technician (RBT- aka. your behavior therapist) talk about “building rapport”. Building rapport is also referred to as pairing. This is important for BCBA’s, RBT’s, and parents to do.

Building rapport can be simply defined as building a positive relationship between you and the child. Parents and providers should pair ourselves with stimuli (toys, activities, preferred tasks, etc.) so that we can be seen as a positive reinforcer; which can ultimately help with participation and compliance with demands. For parents, life can get busy…however, just putting aside 5-15 minutes or more a day to play with your child can be highly beneficial. During this time no demands should be placed on your child, and it’s important to narrate what is being done and show enthusiasm in your time spent together, e.g. “I love puzzles/ I’m so happy that we’re playing together/ This is so fun/ Thank you for playing so nicely with the blocks!”. When you narrate you are pairing stimuli and yourself with positive talk. As for us service providers, building rapport is very important, especially at the start of services. We want to build rapport so that we can get to know your child, and your child can get to know us- we don’t what to be seen as The Big Bad Wolf when we’re there to help!

During the time spent building rapport, there are always teaching opportunities. When you narrate your child’s activities, your child is learning what items are called and how/why they are used. You can ask your child “What is this called?/ How many blocks do you have?/ Wow, the red crayon is pretty (while pointing to or holding the red crayon up)?” but remember, we aren’t placing demands and the child should not be able to differentiate between “work” and play during these rapport building times. If they don’t answer there is no need to force an answer, you can simply count for them or answer the question yourself. See what your child loves and do that with them, help them access those reinforcers, that is building rapport and increasing the value of you!


-Morgan Ottone, Lead RBT

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