Building Rapport

Printer-friendly version
Building Rapport
Tip of the Month:
October, 2017

Presession pairing refers to a procedure used to establish a relationship between the instructor and a student, where the instructor is viewed as a reinforcer by the student (Kelly et al, 2015). Developing a good rapport with a student can often be essential in decreasing problem behaviours and increasing engagement in learning.

How to pair with a student

1. Create a preference profile of the student. This includes selecting toys, books, foods, activities, games, videos, and other things that the student enjoys doing. NOTE: you want to collect enough items to continue the pairing session if the student is bored with one item.
2. Present one item/activity at a time to the student and allow the student to interact with it
3. As the student is interacting with the item, join in with the student to ‘enhance’ the experience. The idea is that things are more ‘fun’ with you, the instructor, around than without
4. Follow the student’s lead. As the student loses interest, introduce new activity/item for him/her to interact with.
5. Minimize demands/instructions during pairing activity until rapport has been firmly established.
6. Once a rapport has been established, began introducing small demands/instructions. Start with demands/instructions that the student is most likely to respond before moving to the more difficult instructions.

Notes about pairing

  • Pairing is a gradual process. It is unlikely to happen in just one day so be sure to run the session for a long enough period.
  • Pairing is an ongoing process. Instructors should continue to pair with the students throughout the year to make sure the rapport is vmaintained.


Kelly, A. N., Axe, J. B., Allen, R. F., & Maguire, R. W. (2015). Effects of presession pairing on the challenging behavior and academic responding of children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 30, 135-156.

ABA Teaching Ideas. (2017, September 11). Manding, pairing, and fun activity ideas. Retrieved from

Click here to view our archived tips of the month.