The process of teaching a person with autism something new can be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. One of the methods for teaching that makes learning anything easier is the use of reinforcers. We feel that it is extremely important that parents pay attention to the reinforcers that elicit positive responses so that those items or activities can be used to help in the education process.
What Are Reinforcers?
That stuffed toy cat that your child carries with them everywhere and will not part with on most occasions is a reinforcer. The act of reinforcing positive behavior is part of the ABA method of teaching and it ties that positive behavior directly to objects or activities called reinforcers. The toy cat is something that your child holds onto tightly and often clings to for support. That toy cat reinforces positive behavior and the positive feeling of security, and it can be used to help teach other important life tasks.
How Are Reinforcers Used?
Each new life task, such as dressing or washing up, comes with challenges that can sometimes create frustration. When a high level of frustration is reached, a reinforcer is brought in to give motivation. If the child follows the steps to dress themselves, they will get to spend time with their toy cat. This not only increases the positive feelings toward the reinforcer, but it also projects positive feelings onto the task being learned.
When Is Something Not A Reinforcer?
Parents and family members need to be very observant to find true reinforcers. If a person enjoys leafing through the pages of a picture book, that does not necessarily mean that the book is a reinforcer. A reinforcer is something the person simply cannot do without. Whether it is a handshake after an accomplishment or a special toy, the reinforcer has a strong positive effect on the person each and every time.
Properly Using Reinforcers
It is important to make a written list of reinforcers that can be used during therapy and at home. Physical reinforcers such as toys and books should be separated out and put into storage bins so they are not lost. Reinforcers should be used on a rotating schedule so that the person does not get bored with any one reinforcer. Emotional reinforcers such as a hug or kiss should also be rotated around to keep things fun and new.
It is extremely important to keep physical reinforcers away from a child to prevent the reinforcers from getting lost, or from the child becoming bored with the reinforcers. When a child is given easy access to the things they truly enjoy, they will get bored with those things quickly.
Types Of Reinforcers
Anything can be a reinforcer if it creates a strong and consistent positive feeling in a person. Toys, hugs, books, housework, video games, play activities, songs, and play-along games can all be reinforcers. Parents should bring up reinforcers infrequently to see if there is a strong positive reaction each time. Items and activities that cause only fleeting interest are not going to work.
Using reinforcers brings about positive feelings and success in other areas of therapy. When a person is motivated by something they truly love, they will work harder to gain access to that item. It is a reward system that has many different positive effects at many different levels.
Eden II Programs helps the autism community by providing programs and services combined with lifespan support to improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families. Eden II has the greatest ability to help individuals with ASD reach their highest potential for independent, self-sustained living through high-quality ABA services, educational programs, adult day programs, group residential care, family support, respite, and a number of other services. Eden II Programs uses the evidence-based practices of ABA to develop skills, promote independence, and change lives for the better.
For information on programs and services available at Eden II, please visit us online at eden2.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.