Reinforcement Reminders...What You Should Keep in Mind When Using Reinforcement

Reinforcement is talked about a lot with our kiddos.  It is the foundation of all of Applied Behavior Analysis, so of course it would be a vital topic to discuss and understand. There are certain things people something forget to keep in mind when using it.

Assess- One of the most important assessments that should be administered on an ongoing basis is a reinforcement assessment.  It’s pretty much how it sounds; you’re testing to see what items are more reinforcing to the student.    There are many that are available with a quick google search.  There are even ones where you can input the reinforcers available.


Token economy board from my Behavior Visuals pack
Set up a reinforcement system- Token economies are used quite often as a system on reinforcement in autism classrooms.   Token economies can look a lot of different ways.  They can range from a whole group token economy (such as my classroom money token economy) that students earn for the day, or a simple individualized one where a student earns every few minutes or responses.  Make sure to use these token economies consistently.  One of the things I’m guilty of doing in my early days of teaching is only using a student's token economy when they were acting up (so young and foolish!).  Don’t do that.  Also keep in mind that not all student will always be able to understand the concept that tokens can be used to earn reinforcing items.   It might be necessary to use something more simplistic, such as a first/then visual schedule, or even just giving the student an itty bitty piece of a cookie when they are doing what they are supposed to do.

Keep an array for reinforcing items on hand- Many time, reinforcers can lose their reinforcing qualities.  A kid can only eat so many mini M&M’s (or can they?  One of my kids would probably eat in weight in M&M’s if I let him).  Okay, maybe my guy isn’t the best example, but it is very possible for students to be comes satiated once they have had enough of something.  It’s also important to keep a variety of things on hand because not every student is going to find the same things reinforcing.  

Hold on to the goods- It’s going to be really hard to get a kid to the table with a ball when he has free reign on the ball every time of the day.  Hold on to the really reinforcing items so that the student has access to them only when they’re with you and/or they have earned it.  My M&M's kiddo can't get to the table fast enough every morning during his 1 to 1 work time with me.

Pair reinforcement with specific, verbal praise- This is important for two reasons.  Our kiddos with autism are not always reinforced by praise, but it should be an end goal to get them to that point.  Interject with a "good job!" when handing over a piece of cookie or a toy.  It's also important to be specific about what they are being reinforced for, so they are more likely to do it again.  "Nice job pointing to red!"

What do you find helpful to rememeber when it comes to reinforcement?  Is there something you find difficult about using reinforcement?

2 comments

  1. Loved reading this post. These tips will certainly come in handy in the classroom I am volunteering with this year. Thank you for sharing :)

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  2. Consistency is critical for sure. Thanks for the tips.

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