How to Pair

In this video, we will explore how parents and other family members can become paired with positive items and events, which will increase positive rapport, increase the likelihood of gaining compliance when teaching new skills, and will foster a happy and healthy environment in which new skills can be taught.

Pairing is an important treatment step that therapists working with your child take to ensure they are considered a positive presence in the child's environment and to establish instructional control and trust. But parents, too, can benefit from engaging in pairing procedures, because they are often the ones giving demands in the home, which aren't always pleasant. We want your child to run towards you when it's time to learn, not away from you!
So what is pairing, anyway? The goal is that when the child sees you, they associate you with good things. So by engaging with the child with items activities they love in the absence of any specific demands, you become "paired" with those items and activities in the future. Pairing is usually a fairly unstructured process, but a few guidelines can help to maximize the effectiveness of the procedure.

  • First, you should limit your child's access to highly preferred items for some time prior to pairing. This ensures that the child will be motivated to interact with you and their favorite things.
  • Second, allow the child to approach you as you hold the preferred item or engage in their favorite activity, and do not give them access when they are moving away from you or engaging in problem behavior. You want to be closely associated with the fun experience, but not reinforce behavior you wouldn't want to see in the future!
  • Third, be enthusiastic! Use your tone of voice and facial expression to show how much you enjoy playing with them. It should be a fun experience, not only for the child, but for you as well! You can also use the child's name often during the session, use lots of praise, and mimic their vocalizations.
  • Fourth, do not deliver any demands when you are pairing. This can be tricky! Saying "come with me" or "look at this" are demands, and we try to avoid these when possible during pairing. Instead, let the child lead you and use descriptive phrases to attract their attention to items you may be playing with.

    For example, rather than saying "Look at the plane", you can say "Wow, that plane is flying so high!"

Pairing with your child will not happen overnight, especially if you are often the one directing him or her through self-care procedures or other less-preferred tasks in your home. Take time to pair for a little while each day and soon your child will be happy to learn new skills from you!

We hope you find these tips for pairing with your child helpful!