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 MODULE: Reinforcement

Why Use Reinforcement?

Correct use of reinforcement is one of the most important components of effective educational services for learners with ASD (Aspy & Grossman, 2007; Henry & Myles, 2007). Positive and negative reinforcement,as well as token economy programs, can be used to teach a variety of skills, such as learning toilet training, expanding speech production, decreasing interfering behaviors (e.g., drooling, disruptive behaviors), increasing on-task behavior, and increasing physical activity. Although reinforcement is an essential component of instructional programs and activities, the following factors may make implementing reinforcement with learners with ASD challenging.

  • Attention problems. A potential solution is to increase the rate of reinforcement when initially teaching a new skill to learners with ASD to promote engagement and increase their success during a teaching activity.
  • Narrow and unusual interests and decreased interest in social praise. This can make the identification of potential reinforcers particularly challenging. Sensory reinforcers (e.g., squishy balls, playing with beans, white noise machine) may be motivating for learners who seek sensory input. The important consideration is that reinforcers must be individualized and sufficiently motivate learners to take part in learning activities that focus on the development of target skills (Aspy & Grossman, 2007).

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