Reinforcement is a central principal in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. It’s an effective element in ABA therapy, but it’s also regularly used in schools, as well. And it can be just as beneficial at home!
Reinforcement is anything that follows a behavior that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again in the future. Positive reinforcement means that you are adding or giving your child something that will increase the likelihood, or reinforce, a desired behavior. Some studies indicate that rewarding desired behaviors—using positive reinforcement—can be more effective than punishing undesired behaviors.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we use positive reinforcement in nearly all of our individualized ABA therapy plans. ABA therapy is most effective when we work as a team—therapist and caregivers—and extend reinforcement beyond therapy sessions into a child’s homelife. Here are a few ideas for implementing positive reinforcement at home.
Tips for Using Positive Reinforcement at Home
Positive reinforcement is an effective method of increasing desired behaviors in children with Autism, but it’s also effective with typically developing children, as well.
Identify the behavior(s) you’d like to reinforce. As with all behavior modification, planning is key. Determine the behavior you’d like to increase (or decrease) and take time to understand the underlying purpose of the behavior. If your child is already receiving ABA therapy, your therapist can help with this.
Choose the right reinforcers. Rewards need to be proportional to the task. A big behavioral change should be reinforced with a bigger reward than a smaller ask. What works will vary from kid to kid, but a few suggestions include time with a favorite toy, a special snack, or even specific verbal praise. Over time, reinforcements should be gradually decreased as a child masters a behavior.
Be mindful of timing. Timeliness is crucial. Rewards should both quickly follow desired behavior and feel attainable to your child. A reward that takes an excessive amount of time to reach may not be motivating initially.
Keep in mind, positive reinforcement is not bribery. As parents, we’re sometimes tempted to bribe our children to behave well and offer treats and rewards for promises of good behavior. Positive reinforcement is a planned strategy that rewards actual behaviors, which is what makes it much more effective.
At Innovative Behavior Options we weave positive reinforcement into nearly all of our individualized behavior plans, and we work with parents to provide training so that learning can continue beyond just our therapy sessions. If you’d like to learn more about ABA therapy and our approach, please give us a call at 770-250-0093.