Since many children with autism are not motivated to learn by intrinsic rewards, it is the therapist’s job to provide external reinforcement as a means to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior.
For a behavior to re-occur, reinforcement must be contingent on the desired behavior. As well, if a therapist wants to decrease inappropriate behavior, reinforcing APPROPRIATE behavior and ignoring the inappropriate behavior will decrease the frequency or duration of the inappropriate behavior and increase the likelihood of appropriate behavior.
In the beginning of an ABA program, reinforcement is delivered in high frequency in order to shape appropriate behavior and motivate the child to learn. Common reinforcers in the beginning are food and drink, as these are natural reinforcers for any living creature.
Social praise is always paired with food to teach the child to enjoy verbal praise, a type of secondary reinforcement.
As the child ages in an ABA program, the style of programming changes. Programs taught formally at the table have been moved and generalized in the environment.
As well, time sitting at the table will resemble the time the child must sit at school. Reinforcement during this time is faded in frequency and in type.
Big reinforcers such as computer time are saved after long periods of program work and smaller toy, food, or verbal praise occur intermittently within programs.
Food should be faded so that the child only receives food during snack time or for behaviors that need to be heavily praised such as peeing in the toilet.
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