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The Importance of Positive Reinforcement with Kids with Autism


Marisa Rodriguez
PSYC 1010
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Marisa Rodriguez

Professor Steele

PSYC 1010

2 August 2017

The Importance of Positive Reinforcement with Kids with Autism

B.F Skinner's Role of reinforcements and punishments has helped shaped kids with

autism to have better behaviors by the type of programs that they are put in that have these two

ideas used behind them. I have been working as a Direct Support Professional for kids and adults

with autism in foster care for about 9 months now and have seen the effectiveness in our

company's methods when we use and apply the roles of positive reinforcements. With a kid who

has no disabilities it is easy to control their behavior by using a physical method, thus making it

easy to stop the behavior. But kids with Autism it is more complex and according to psychologist

Stephanie Weber of the Kelly OLeary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Cincinnati

Childrens Hospital Medical Center she states physical discipline is not a good approach

particularly for a child on the autism spectrum. A solution to this problem would be to use B.F.

Skinners method of reinforcement which means any stimulus or event that functions to

increase the likelihood of the behavior that led to it: more effective than punishment in

promoting learning. By using positive reinforcements, a kid with autism can build on their

positive behaviors and Weber shares some insight on how to do that by the use of many methods

that are of a positive approach just like the ones we use at my job.

Weber first suggest starting by building on the constructive behaviors your child shows.

For example, praise him, give him a high-five or some other positive reinforcement when he

keeps nice hands and doesnt hit himself when frustrated. So praising a kid will you the
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results to increase their behavior. I always find myself praising my clients with a good job or a

I like the way you asked before giving her a side hug when they display positive social

boundaries and are using appropriate communications with staff and friends. I have noticed a

long term effect because they will always remember and are more likely to display that positive

behavior when around staff and friends.

Another method of positive reinforcement that one uses according to Weber is Visual

supports She states that they can help you convey what you expect of him. The use of a

visual schedule, for example, can be helpful to let your child know when things will happen in

his day. The use of schedules is an important factor to creating positive behavior. At my job we

have daily schedules that we fill out with our clients every day and it usually alternates from a

staff choice activity to a kids choice activity. I notice it helps with structure and consistency

with our kids who really thrive on it. They are also less likely to throw a tantrum when they dont

get their way because we can easily refer and redirect them back to the schedule. I would agree

with Weber and notice the effectiveness of visual supports that are helpful and beneficial.

Lastly, Weber explains the importance of token boards which are another example of a

visual tool for communicating what your son needs to do to earn something he wants. She goes

on to explain what these are and states A token board (photo below) includes a picture of the

reward with tokens that can be earned for each task completed toward the goal. Once all tasks

are completed, the child receives the item in the picture. Just like those token boards, we have

something similar at our program. We have star charts were a kid has time intervals where if he

or she shows good behavior and none of their target behavior then they get a star at each interval.

These are really helpful when trying to redirect a kid to another appropriate activity.
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Positive reinforcements have helped kids with Autism and are effective when put into use

right and Weber has taught use some methods to help do so. But we cant forget the backbone to

all these positive reinforcement methods who were introduced and created by B.F Skinner. He

has helped shaped good behavior by the creation of reinforces. And it is proven to help kids with

autism because Weber ends with her article by stating By making the change from physical

discipline to positive reinforcement, I think you will see many improvements in your childs

behavior. Having these kids improve in their behavior is what B.F. Skinner would be proud of.

Work Cited

"Physical Discipline & Autism: A Parent Asks for Guidance." Autism Speaks. N.p., 24 July

2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2017.

Schacter, Gilbert, and Nock Wegner. Psychology, 3rd Edition. N.p.: Worth Publishers, n.d. Print.
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