What and Why:
Reinforcement is anything that occurs immediately following a behavior that increases the future likelihood of that behavior. It is used to increase skills and broaden interests and opportunities.
- Materials needed will vary.
How and When to Implement:
- When you want to increase a behavior or skills
- Consider doing a task analysis to identify the different steps involved in a task where a student can receive reinforcement
- Identify reinforcers that the student is motivated to earn
- Make it clear what the student has to do to earn the reinforcer
- Teaching staff who are dispensing reinforcers need to be able to observe/measure the behavior
- Make it clear how long the student has to engage in observable/measurable expected behavior
- Identify whether the student needs a reward immediately after he/she engages in an expected behavior (first/then) or if the student will be successful with a delayed gratification system (token system)
- When dispensing reinforcers use specific praise (e.g. You’re following directions, You’re completing your work, You’re being safe)
Things to Consider/Problem Solving:
- A reinforcement schedule could be completed by the student’s family to help determine interests and likes.
- Assessing what the student likes and then creating reinforcers based upon interests can create reinforcers.
- Giving students choices can be effective in the development of the reinforcement. Simply giving a student a choice of which of two toys he would like to play with can have the effect of making the selected toy as a reinforcer.
- Giving free access to potential reinforcers can also create new reinforcers.
- The “packaging” of the reinforcer is another strategy to develop reinforcers. Often you can “sell” the reinforcer by being enthusiastic and playful.
- What is reinforcing to a student will change over time. Make sure to switch out/rotate the student’s reinforcers as to not satiate the student on one particular item/activity.
- Use “smaller” reinforcers to get through a task, with a “larger” or more desired reinforcer at the end of a completed task.
Useful Resources to Learn More:
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Information compiled by Lincoln Public Schools Autism Team (September 2015)