Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Creative With Reinforcement

One of the most important things in a successful ABA program (and in many other areas of life, really) is compelling motivation.  Working with kids with autism, or being a parent of a child with autism, it gets necessary to get creative with motivation and reinforcement.  Kids with autism may not have the same interests as other kids, and they certainly are not going to follow the rules of what they "should" like.

One of the easiest ways to find creative reinforcers is just to watch the child in an environment with many options of what they can interact with.  Are they playing with a certain toy?  Are they approaching the adults in the room?  Are they approaching the children?  Is there a pet they are looking for?  Are they sliding pictures between the wall and the desk?  Are they ripping papers apart?

There are many creative things that can be used as reinforcers that we may overlook because they don't seem like they "should" be reinforcing, or we haven't thought of a way to be in control of them.  We need to think outside the box, because "the box" just doesn't exist for them.  Other reinforcers are just so in our face that we completely look past them.

I may make some updated posts with other creative reinforcers as I come up with more, but for right now here is a list of some off the top of my head.  Some are more creative than others, my current case load is chock full of easy to reinforce kiddos

  • A box with a slit in the top (for the kid sliding the pictures between the wall and desk!)  As they correctly label the picture, they then get to place it in the slit in the box.
  • Paper (for the kid ripping paper.)  Gives them the chance to rip without destroying something that may be important.
  • Kittens (of course, calm ones with kids who are gentle with them!) Even better if the kitten reaches out to give you "high fives."
  • Soft balls- to throw at each other.  Watch out for kids with a really good arm.
  • Brushing your hair.  My hair is curly, and brushing it turns it into a HUGE puffball. Never underestimate the motivation of making the therapist "look like a lion!"
  • Shout "YeeeeeHaw!"
  • Do a handstand (if you can)
  • Draw- animals, vehicles, whatever they are interested in! (If it is animals, check out I use it often because I can't draw well AT ALL.)
  • Time with a prefered family member.
  • Being left alone.  Not home alone, just being given space to not have someone on top of them.

As a general rule of thumb, things I use as reinforcers are virtually anything that the child 1) shows interest in, 2) is available, and 3) won't harm them or others.  Particularly for kids who are still working on requesting skills, if they ask for it and it falls under 2 and 3, they can have it.

Do you have any particularly creative reinforcers in your bag of tricks?


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