Reinforcement Systems

Reinforcement Protocol

Reinforcement Rubric

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.

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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: php


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Information compiled by Lincoln Public Schools Autism Team (September 2015)