Motivation as a Teaching and Behavior Management Tool
Children with special needs may not be as motivated to work as other children are. A solid behavior management program builds motivation by rewarding desired behaviors with reinforcement (edibles, toys, time to play, preferred activities, sensory stimulation, etc.).
“We can’t teach if we can’t motivate”.
The student is given rewards only for desired behaviors in response to those stimuli so that eventually he comes to understand that certain stimuli are probably more deserving of his attention than others.
This way, the instructor achieves instructional control when student’s responses to his/her instructions produce reinforcement more often than responses in the absence of the instruction.
• Instructional control plays a fundamental role in education and behavior management.
• Instructional control is achieved by reinforcing the desired responses.
Reinforcement, a simple behavior-consequence principle, is the fundamental building tool for teaching behaviors. The teacher or parent is in control when she pairs herself with reinforcement.
Guidelines for delivering reinforcement
- Delivery of reinforcement should be paired with praise, eye contact, high fives, hugs, brief games. Some kids with autism do not yet find many of these things very reinforcing. It is our job to teach them to enjoy these things as much as possible.
- The reinforcer (prize, reward) should be exclusive for the target behavior. If the child has free access to computer, for example, he doesn’t need to emit the desired response to get it.
- Needless to say, reinforcement must be motivating to the child. If she doesn’t care when you praise her, praise is not reinforcing.
- Reinforcement must be delivered consistently;
the criteria for the response need to be planned out in detail, understood, and
used consistently by everyone involved in the child's program.
- Reinforcers vary and by definition are considered reinforcing only if they increase the likelihood of the response in the future. In other words, reinforcers must be reinforcing to the individual and thus varies from individual to individual.
Catch them being good. If you wait until the child misbehaves to provide attention or play with her you are reinforcing the bad behavior.
Remember, you change the child’s behavior by changing the behaviors of the adults that interact with that child. Pure and simple, right?
Daniel Adatto, BCBA