Balancing Reinforcement and Demands for Your Client or Child With Autism

In this week’s video blog, I want to share with you a useful analogy I use to examine how we work with our clients or children with autism:

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I’ve been working with children with autism for almost 2 decades as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Early on in my career when I would see children with problem behaviors within autism classrooms a few things would come to my mind.

First I would think:

  • What is this child like when they are home on the weekend when there’s no structure and no academic demands?
  • What does this child like to do during their downtime?
  • And do they have problem behaviors across the board?

It was often difficult to find out this information so I started to ask the teachers “What parts of the day, if any does the child not engage in any problem behaviors?” Even if there was just one part of the day with no problem behaviors, that’s where we start.

As I worked through these questions, I would have people consider their answers if there was money at stake. What if I gave you $1000 for your child or clients have good day free up from behaviors – what would you do?

Some teachers stated that they would let the child play on the computer and not make them do any work. To earn the prize of $1000, one parent said that she would let her child stay in his pajamas, not go to school, let him eat anything he wanted, and line things up around the house.

So whether you are a parent or professional listening to this video, you’re probably thinking “yeah but that’s not reality, we can’t let kids stay in their pajamas, stay home from school, and not do work when we have IEP goals to master and a classroom full of children who can’t all do their own thing.”

While I know it is difficult to think about ways to reduce problem behaviors by allowing the child to gain access to the strongest reinforcers while eliminating all difficult demands, this $1000 analogy has helped people turn things around pretty quickly. Once you can get the the demands really low and the reinforcers very high, the child will have less problem behaviors. Then you can gradually increase the demands and fade the reinforcements.

Ready to learn more and turn things around for your child or client with autism? Sign up for my free 3-step guide!
GET YOUR FREE 3-STEP GUIDE TO TURN THINGS AROUND TODAY!