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Before implementing a reinforcement program using positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, or token economy programs, team members should conduct a reinforcer sampling to identify objects, items, or activities that are reinforcing or have been reinforcing in the past for individual learners with ASD. A reinforcement program will not be successful unless the learner with ASD is highly motivated by the reinforcers. This process will vary according to the reinforcement procedure being used (see Step-by-Step Instructions for positive and negative reinforcement). Reinforcers can be identified by:
Through this process, team members identify a variety of reinforcers that can be used to motivate learners with ASD to increase their use of target skills. Reinforcers are generally categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary reinforcers satisfy a physical need by making the individual feel good (e.g., food, liquids, sleep). Secondary reinforcers are objects or activities that individuals have grown to like, but that do not meet basic biological needs. Potential reinforcers include the following:
When selecting reinforcers, team members should focus on selecting reinforcers that are inexpensive, do not take a lot of staff time to use, and, whenever possible, are natural (Alberto & Troutman, 2008; Henry & Myles, 2007; Reichle & Johnson, 2007).