Two Of A Kind

Ok, I don't mean to spoil the party but TRIPLE TRIVIA has decided to take a vacation this week.

In the interim, I am posting something that I haven't posted in a while but I feel the need to as I am experiencing or about to experience another round of Applied Behavior Analysis instruction training being that a staff replacement is in place.


With that said..

One of the first things I do when I receive a new hire or even someone in house who hasn't worked with any of my learners before is pair them with reinforcers (I believe the politically correct term now is "motivators")  

Why would this be?

Imagine if a friend came to you and said that they needed some help with something or another type of demand (take your pick) even if they only call you when they want something.  At first you might think, "Well, I really don't feel like doing it because I really am wore out and I don't have the energy."

Your perceptions or answer might change if they offer to take you out to a nice restaurant afterwords and pay for your meal.. Or perhaps if they are wealthy enough, invite you on an all expense paid vacation to Aruba or Hawai'i?  

These are what motivate us to help out others.  (Even though life teaches us to help others without these but in all essence, we do need these.  We definitely need motivation to help ourselves.  It takes a lot of motivation to keep ourselves going.)

To an individual on the Autism Spectrum, especially the levels that I work with, consistent routine is necessary and a lot of motivation is needed to complete daily skills.  

A change of instructors/staffing is something that will offset my learners and most individuals on the spectrum greatly and will create many problematic behaviors.  It is imperative that when a new teacher or staff come on the scene for any particular student or learner that motivators, or reinforces are immediately paired with the instructor so that not only to make these transitions smooth for the learner but also to avoid problematic and disruptive behaviors when the new staff or instructor starts to place tasks in front of the learner.  Problematic behaviors are not something that any new staff wants to experience. 

Yes and No Example:

New Instructor enters room without any motivator or any reinforcer for the first time and says to the learner:
"Hey let's do a puzzle!"
(Learner engages in disruptive behavior due to confusion of missing staff member and presence of new one placing tasks on him/her.)
New instructor enters room with a reinforcer (e.g., jar of candy) and learner picks up i.e., looks at the reinforcer (e.g., candy) Keyword: ASSOCIATING the candy with the instructor or staff member, to which he/she mands/asks for it.

New instructor says, "Would you like some candy? Let's do a puzzle for candy!"  Learner engages in task and receives reinforcer or motivator for engaging in and successfully completing the task.

Eventually motivators are faded away once the learner becomes more independent in each task.  Some instructors reinforce solely on appropriate behavior versus the quality or outcome of the task.  Each one is set to meet the needs of the learner. I try and stay away from edible motivators such as candy, snacks, etc., however, it depends on the learner and his or her needs.

Always ensuring success for everyone.

I hope you have found this useful especially if you are in the Special Education field dealing with individuals on the Autism Spectrum.


  1. Jeremy, this is really interesting. I had no idea. I'm thinking this might work with kids too. Perhaps that's why people give little ones candy to make them believe their good and to go with them. Not good. But, I'm wondering if it could work to get a two year old to brush her teeth. :)

  2. Yes, ABA definitely works with everyone.. adults included! Yes, candy can be problematic however, that's why I only use it as an as necessary basis. As far as tooth brushing, make sure it's a sugar free candy LOL


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