ABA therapy frequently uses positive reinforcement to teach a more beneficial alternative to potentially harmful or undesirable behaviors. It is also often used in helping children with autism spectrum disorder learn and develop appropriate behaviors throughout various areas, including social, communication, and life skills. Through the help of therapists and caregivers, consistently using positive reinforcement can create positive, lasting behavioral changes. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of positive reinforcement in ABA therapy.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement consists of a stimulus added to the environment immediately after the desired response has been exhibited, increasing the likelihood of the response occurring again. The stimulus increases the chances that a response or a reaction will occur. In other words, if a teacher provides the right reinforcing stimulus immediately after a child performs an appropriate behavior, it is more likely the child will repeat that desired behavior and learn to use it more often. The specific reinforcement will differ for each child based on their preferences. Some children are happy with verbal praise, while others love being tickled or chased. Some children enjoy toys as a reward; others just want free time to do whatever they want.
How is Positive Reinforcement Used in ABA Therapy?
In ABA therapy, your treatment team would identify what behaviors are significant to your child. Your child’s ABA therapist will develop an individualized plan tailored to their needs, abilities, skills, and interests. Teaching and reinforcing essential skills will allow your child to thrive. Positive reinforcers are vital in increasing the likelihood that new behaviors will be repeated and the chance they will be long-term. Your child’s reinforcers are determined by knowing what is most meaningful or motivating to them and what they have responded well to previously. It may be a specific toy or favorite game on a device. In any case, the motivator is always paired with encouragement, praise, and social attention.
Positive Reinforcement is not Bribery
Understanding the difference between a positive reinforcer and a bribe is important. A common misconception is that ABA therapy uses bribes to teach children with behavioral challenges new behaviors. A bribe is offered before a task is performed to coax a specific action, such as saying, “If you do your homework, you can have a cookie.” On the other hand, positive reinforcers are given only after the desired action has been performed, i.e., “Great job doing your homework! Let’s have a snack”.
Bribing children when the goal is to change their behavior for the long term is not recommended or effective. In many cases, it will only encourage them to continue engaging in unwanted behaviors because they realize they will get what they want regardless. Positive reinforcement is an effective way to alter behavior in the long run.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.