Rapport building is often a practice in the field that is quickly passed over. It seems that staff and families alike are in a hurry to implement and increase demand, prematurely before adequate rapport has been established. I am all for eager staff and families, but let's consider the pros of taking adequate time to build rapport. The following points can help both staff and families with building rapport (or rebuilding rapport):
- Keep in mind that building rapport is an investment in the process of establishing yourself as a reinforcer
- You want the learner to view you as a discriminative stimulus (SD), which means that your presence signals the availability of reinforcement
- How do you become an SD?
- Provide lavish praise
- Demonstrate an enthusiastic interest in the learner and their chosen activities
- Pair yourself with each activity and come alongside the learner as they engage with the things that they find interesting and/or reinforcing
- Incorporate demand very gradually (this will be done on a case by case basis) and provide reinforcement for compliance with those demands
- Initially, you will only use high-probability requests (these are requests that the learner has a high probability of following)
- “Let’s play with your favorite trucks!”
- “We should have a cookie together!”
- This also means that you will not be using low-probability requests (these are requests that the learner has a low probability of following)
- “First sit down, and then finish your homework”
- "Clean up your trucks"
The rapport building process in an investment that will yield high-quality interactions for both the learner and staff members or families. Once rapport is established, demands can be gradually introduced and expectations can increase. Throughout the therapeutic relationship, reinforcement is continually assessed and evaluated. It is especially important in the initial phases to take this time and build rapport. The main idea is to enjoy the time that you have with those that you love and serve, whether you're a professional in the field, or a family member.