How To Make Yourself Reinforcing When Working With Children With Autism

Many new therapists who are about to begin working with children with autism might be concerned about how to make themselves reinforcing. The main key to a proper ABA home program is for the therapist to pair themselves with highly enjoyable activities in order for teaching to occur. When a child knows that when you come over, good things happen, the ability to teach this child and reinforce this child becomes strong. How does this begin?

Have Fun During Play

For many newly diagnosed children with autism, play may seem foreign and not enjoyable. Certain rigid patterns may form since they don’t know how to play. When an ABA therapist comes to work with children, they show how fun play is and how varied play can be. In the beginning, place low or no demands in order to build a rapport with the child. This is achieved with following the child’s lead during play and making fun contingent on your presence. Here are some examples of pairing yourself with fun things:

  • Sing Songs The Child Likes – sing a variety of songs during play and if you get eye contact, start pausing to see if you can get some communication to sing more.
  • Help The Child During Play – if the child likes putting shapes in a shape sorter, gather all the shapes and let the child request each piece either non verbally or verbally. This shows the child that they need you to complete a fun activity.
  • For Older Children, Play Social Reinforcing Games – This includes pretending to sleep and having the child wake you up, or playing chase while you run around like an alligator ready to chomp. Games you can make “your own” will be powerful reinforcers for the child.
  • Add Funny Noises During Play – Make cool sound effects when playing cars or be dramatic with play. Many children enjoy crazy fun play with toys such as stuffing your shirt with toys and sneezing them out or wrapping playdough on animals and pretending they got hurt and need a cast.
  • Have A Bag Of Goodies – This is highly important when you become an ABA therapist. This bag of toys will come home with you and are your own personal reinforcing toys. Go to your local dollar store and pick up a variety of toys such as slime, squishy balls, bouncy balls, slinkies, vibrating toys, light up toys, toy cars, bubbles and stretchy toys. Continually add toys as you get to know your children. Some children may like Bob the Builder so finding a Bob The Builder book can be highly reinforcing.

Pair Yourself

The best tip to give new therapists is to pair yourself with good things. Try to make every activity you do with the child reinforcing only because you are there. Since many children with autism enjoy being alone, a therapist has to be extra fun in order to hold the attention of the child. Here are some activities to pair yourself:

  • Bubble Fun – Many children don’t know how to blow bubbles but enjoy bubbles. This is a fun activity to encourage communication and to pair yourself with.
  • Gross Motor Fun – Many children love jumps, spins, lifts and anything to do with gross motor. Blanket rides, magic carpet rides, tub rides are all great fun activities that a therapist can pair themselves with.
  • Special Books – There are many touch-feel books that children love. If children love regular books then you can use them to pair yourself with reading their favorite books.

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  1. One of the children I am working with doesn’t seem to be interested in anything. I might get a small smile then he just looks around the room. Even the things he was supposed to be fixated on like the clothes dryer and the ball aren’t working for me. He likes the pool but then once he is in, how do I make him do anything else?