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What is pairing? Why is it important in ABA?

When working with a student with autism or special needs, the first component to good teaching is that the individual must associate the teacher (you) with good things happening. In other words, pair yourself (or associate yourself) with reinforcement. Pairing turns you into a reinforcer. It provides increased compliance and instructional control.


Tips for Pairing:

  1. Observe the learner and interact with him/her in a way that is fun.

  2. Offer unconditional items, activities etc, but only during work time.

  3. Observe the activities, toys and foods that are enjoyed by the child.

  4. Reserve special items for learning or practice time and make sure they are varied.

  5. Play without requiring response from the learner.

  6. Pairing never ends.

  7. Try to find items that you can control the amount or duration of (ex. Tickles, hugs, high fives, food, drink, bubbles)


You should never start an interaction with a child using a command—have fun first!

In order to understand pairing, the instructor must understand the word reinforcer. A reinforcer is something presented after a behavior that increases the behavior. If the behavior does not increase, it is not a reinforcer.



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