310 Motivate Me

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					                                 ASD-School Support Program

                                Motivate Me!
Reinforcement is a process to strengthen a behaviour. It helps to both build skills and
increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. We are all reinforced for our
behaviour. Students with an ASD are no different; they also benefit from receiving
reinforcement. However, students with an ASD can lack internal motivation, which is why it is
even more important to use external motivators to encourage them to complete less preferred

Using Rewards

It is important to distinguish between reinforcement and rewarding appropriate behaviour and
bribery. Bribery usually benefits the person making the suggestion, while reinforcers or
rewards are used to benefit the person being rewarded.

              Rewards are only effective if they are meaningful and enjoyable to the student.
              If they are not reinforcing they will have no impact on behaviour.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Both positive and negative reinforcement increase and maintain behaviour.

Positive reinforcement involves presenting a positive consequence to increase a desired

Negative reinforcement involves removing or ending something that is unpleasant, in
response to a specific behaviour.

Negative Reinforcement and Punishment

    Negative reinforcement and punishment are often thought to be the same thing.
However, this is not the case.

Punishment involves presenting an unpleasant consequence or loss of pleasant activity to
stop or decrease an undesirable behaviour from occurring. For example, a teacher may
give detention to a student who is talking out during class.

                                         P310 – Handout
                                    ASD-School Support Program

Negative reinforcement involves removing an aversive circumstance and increases the
likelihood that a behaviour will occur again. For example, a teacher may stop giving math
worksheets to a student who throws his books and rips up his work every time that he is
presented with math activities. Since throwing books and ripping up math sheets results in
the classroom teacher not providing additional math work, the student will continue to
engage in the behaviour in order to avoid having to do math.

Therefore, use positive reinforcement to make sure that you are reinforcing the behaviour
you want!!

                                     Types of Reinforcers

There are 4 types of reinforcers:

Edible (strongest type of reinforcer)             Tangible
    Extra milk                              Crayons
    Juice                                   Pens
    Pudding                                 Hockey cards
    Popcorn                                 Magazines
    Yogurt                                  Balls
    Potato chips                            Books
    Cookies                                 Stickers
    Raisins                                 Pictures of favourite star or character

Activity                                        Social
    Blowing bubbles                        Smile
    Listening to music                     Time with student
    Stringing beads                        Saying (add reason) "Very good,"
    Extra time to read                      "Fantastic"
    Helping Staff                        Laugh
    Class Leader                         Hand shake
    First in line                        Asking student to talk about interest
    Painting                                to class
                                          Asking a student to teach a lesson
                                     Assistance when requested

   It is important to always pair edible, activity and tangible reinforcers with social
   reinforcement. That way, when these reinforcers are faded out, continued social
   reinforcement will help to maintain the behaviour.

                                           P310 – Handout
                                  ASD-School Support Program

"Nothing motivates him!"

It can sometimes be difficult to find items that are reinforcing for students. However, it is
important to keep in mind that everyone has something that motivates them. When at a loss,
it may be helpful to look at or observe what a student does on his/her free time. This can
give you some ideas as what may be reinforcing for specific students. For example, some
students may enjoy spending time flipping through a magazine while others might enjoy
talking to an adult or peer about their favourite topic.

Premack Principle

Access to a highly preferred activity or item can be used to motivate a student to complete a
less preferred task or activity.

Factors Affecting the Value of Reinforcement

   •   Limiting access: little access to a specific reinforcer (increases the value)
   •   Satiation: too much access to a specific reinforcer (decreases the value)

Interest Inventories

Interest inventories can help you to find out what types of things will be motivating to your
student. They list a number of possible reinforcers that a student may find appealing.
Interest inventories can be completed with the student or by someone who knows him/her

                                          P310 – Handout
                                 ASD-School Support Program

                                 Reinforcement Schedules

There are a number of different ways that a behaviour can be reinforced. Initially, when
trying to teach a new behaviour you would reinforce it every time it occurs. Once a behaviour
has been established, it would only need to be reinforced occasionally in order to maintain it.
The following provides a brief overview of the different ways to reinforce behaviours.

Reward the behaviour every time it happens. Use this for behaviours that you want to
increase or for new behaviours you are trying to teach.

Reward the behaviour occasionally. This helps to maintain a behaviour. For example, a
teacher may reward her class for completing work quietly.

Non-contingent reinforcement
The delivery of reinforcers at pre-determined times regardless of student behaviour.

The schedules listed below are types of intermittent schedules of reinforcement.

FIXED (Time)
Reward behaviour after a set amount of time has passed.
Pros: Ensures that behaviour is rewarded.

Reward behaviour after an average amount of time has passed.

FIXED (Response)
Reward provided after a set number of responses have occurred.

VARIABLE (Response)
Reward responses after an average number of responses have occurred. This type of
reinforcement schedule closely resembles the natural environment.


Sulzer-Azaroff, B. & Mayer, G.R (1991). Increasing Behaviour Reinforcement & Selective
Positive Reinforces, 9& 10. Behaviour Analysis for Lasting Change.

Erinoak (2006). ABA 1.5 Power Point.

                                          P310 – Handout

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