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December 2021

Reinforcement vs. Punishment

Reinforcement and Punishment

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Difference Between Reinforcement and Punishment

The first difference between these two terms commonly seen in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is that reinforcement increases behavior while punishment decreases behavior.

Some common examples of reinforcement included getting a cookie for good behavior, winning a prize in a race, or getting bubbles after doing chores. In contrast, some examples of punishment include sitting in time out for calling out, getting your phone taken for bad grades, or being reprimanded for bad behavior.

Reinforcement vs. Punishment

As a parent, you may consider whether you should use reinforcement or punishment with your child. Using reinforcement or punishment depends on the individual’s preferences and what motivates them more. It can be helpful to put yourself in the child’s shoes and consider how they might perceive these preferences. For example, as adults, do we find that we are more motivated by bonuses for our hard work or by not getting reprimanded? In this instance, it depends on the person!

Assessing a person’s motivation in instances like these is extremely helpful because it can determine whether reinforcement or punishment would be the most beneficial. You can try either method to see which generates the best response, but ultimately choose whichever one works best for that child.

If you start with reinforcement, it is also beneficial to ensure that the child receives the proper support for their behavior goals. For example, if as an adult, if you were to work 8 hours with a high-five as your reward, this likely isn’t a great enough reinforcer for you to continue to work 8 hours again.

When implementing reinforcement with children, this is very similar to rewarding them for their good behavior. If the reward is motivating enough, the child will be more likely to continue the behavior of interest again.

What to Do When Punishment Does Not Work

Although you can use punishment in ABA, positive reinforcement is the more effective strategy to help increase behaviors. When we use ABA, we want to reinforce behaviors while teaching replacement behaviors for unwanted actions. Teaching replacement behaviors is not a strategy in punishment procedures, which is why certain punishment strategies don’t work!

If the punishment procedure does not work, it would be best to stop since it is most likely not benefitting the person if there is no progress. Instead of using punishment for exhibiting unwanted behaviors, use rewards and praise for performing the correct behaviors. Another alternative if punishment does not work is helping the person de-escalate from the unwanted behavior, including coping techniques such as deep breaths and counting. After this, remind the person, prompt, or coach them through the correct behavior.

Reinforcement vs. Punishment

Is Punishment as Bad as It Sounds?

Although some punishment procedures may appear to be working, such as time-out, scolding or reprimands, they may be harmful to the individual. Sometimes punishment procedures can exclude a person or cause the person to become indifferent towards the person implementing the punishment. Using punishment may decrease the unwanted behavior, but it does not give the person an opportunity to learn new skills or replacement behaviors to use as future tools.

Before considering punishment, it is best to try all other evidence-based strategies such as reinforcement and appropriate replacement behaviors, as punishment can be harmful if implemented incorrectly. Some helpful considerations are to pair positive reinforcement with punishment, use only techniques you know will work, including the person’s considerations if applicable, do not exclude, and always monitor to see if what you are using is working.

Key Tips to Follow When Using Punishment or Reinforcement

After determining a goal behavior for your child, you may decide to try out using punishment or reinforcement to see which one creates a better response. No matter which strategy you use, it’s important to be consistent to help the child maintain or decrease a behavior. Some tips for using these strategies effectively include:

  • If punishment procedures don’t work, try reinforcement!
  • With reinforcement, remember to provide a reward and lots of praise for the behavior of interest.
  • Helping the individual with coping strategies to redirect from the unwanted behavior can be useful.
  • Remind the person of what the behavior should have looked like after the unwanted behavior to help the person correct themselves in the future.

Schedule a Free Consultation at Early Autism Services Today!

At Early Autism Services, we’ve been helping children reach their potential with our applied behavior analysis therapy program for over a decade. One of the many benefits of our services is that we provide various therapy options to best suit your child’s needs. Some therapy options include in-home, center-based, and telehealth therapy. Since our founding, we’ve expanded to open multiple offices across the United States and several locations in Australia and India.

Our knowledgeable team is ready to answer any questions about our programs, costs and insurance. After speaking with our team, if you would like to use our services, the next step will be a free consultation. You and your child will meet with one of our experienced clinicians to discuss your family’s needs and learn more about our programs. Afterward, we will meet again to create a personalized therapy plan to help develop their current skills while learning new ones.

If you’d like to take advantage of our wide range of therapy services, schedule a free consultation today!

Tips for teaching children with autism thumbnail

Tips for Teaching Children With Autism

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Tips for Teaching Children with Autism

Every child is different, and some have unique learning needs that make traditional learning methods less than ideal. Teaching kids with autism requires extra guidance and support to help them successfully learn academically and socially. Whether you are a teacher or a parent, you may have questions about how to teach kids with autism to better help them grow and develop. Fortunately, there are many different ways to help your student with autism and provide them with a positive learning experience, from fostering better communication to eliminating extra stress and many things in between.

Parent Tips for Teaching Children with Autism

Teaching Tips for Parents

Having a child with autism can be challenging. However, teaching does not have to be difficult. Find out ways to provide the best learning environment for your student at home with these helpful tips.

Use Direct Language

Teaching kids with autism means speaking with them in a way that they will best understand. Many people living with autism struggle with any kind of figurative language. Instead, they interpret everything concretely, word for word.

Think about the idioms you use every day — for example, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” or “I could eat a horse.” You can see how phrases like these would be bewildering when interpreted literally. That’s why it’s crucial to speak plainly with your child. Also, try your best not to rely heavily on nonverbal cues like facial expressions or gestures, which are confusing and hard to read.

Predictability Is Critical

Students with autism often face anxiety about unpredictability. Unexpected changes can make things frustrating for you and your child. Help keep them at ease by creating a consistent routine and sticking to it. That way, your student will always know what is coming next, like when they need to do homework or get ready for dinner. Having a plan will take away distractions and worry to make room for your child to focus on learning.

Give Simple Instructions

If an assignment or project comes with a long list of steps, simplify it as much as possible. Kids on the autism spectrum may have trouble processing complex directions. You can help them understand by breaking the instructions down into one or two steps at a time to complete. Be sure to use brief sentences and plain, straightforward language to reduce confusion.

Challenges Are Opportunities

As your child continues on their learning path, things may often feel overwhelming. Your attitude as a parent can make a dramatic difference for your student with autism. Reframe challenges as opportunities, instead of roadblocks. This mindset will help them face obstacles with a positive, can-do outlook and prepare them to overcome anything that may come their way.

Teaching Tips for Educators

Teachers in every grade level know that every child with autism requires individual attention to help them succeed. Discovering what works best for each student may require some trial and error. Discover several approaches you can take when teaching kids with autism to enhance the teaching and learning process in your classroom.

Lead Inclusive Activities

With some extra preparation, children on the autism spectrum can enjoy group activities just as much as their more neurotypical peers. Learn your students’ play preferences and what they are comfortable doing. Some students with autism are nonverbal, so preparing alternative ways to communicate with them is crucial. Learn more in our video, “Behavior Strategies for the Group Environment: Leading Inclusive Activities for Children With Autism.”

Recognize and Avoid Sensory Overload

Teachers are well aware that students can become distracted, and students with autism are no exception to this rule. However, what may be a short-lived interruption for their peers could become overwhelmingly bothersome to an autistic child.

For students with autism, things most people might never notice — such as smells, lighting, echoes and even bright colors — can be intensely triggering. When in the classroom, try to keep everything as calm and relaxing as possible. You can also present your autistic students with sensory tools to help them process information and reduce stress.

Offer Natural Rewards

Since kids with autism do not process verbal praise and attention the same way others do, you must take a different approach to rewarding their efforts and progress. Offer your students natural rewards that directly connect to their desired behaviors, such as interacting with peers. For example, if your student is fascinated by trains, you can distribute multiple train cars among their peers and fellow educators. Reinforce the idea that they will get to play with a portion of the train as a reward for positive interactions with others.

Maintain a Structured Learning Environment

Structure can make a significant difference when teaching children with autism. Set up a well-structured classroom that is easy for them to navigate. Create a schedule that can become a comfortable, familiar routine and do your best not to deviate from it. As an educator, you will find classroom structure helpful for reducing stress and boosting focus by showing students with autism what to do next, when and for how long before moving on to the next task.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids are invaluable for students with autism because they can model so many different things. They can serve as reminders of classroom rules, where items belong within the classroom and help them find available resources. Creating infographics-style schedules can serve as a tool students can follow by easily identifying what each picture represents throughout their daily classroom routine. Visual aids can dramatically simplify communication for you and your students.

Encourage Social Interactions With Others

Learning how to socially interact with peers is one of the most critical skills a student can learn. Sometimes, it may take a little extra guidance and encouragement from teachers to help students with autism feel comfortable enough to participate in social interaction. A classroom setting that provides natural opportunities for social interaction between educators and peers is an ideal way to encourage social interaction.

Be Patient

All kids learn at a different pace, and some children need a little more grace than others. When teaching kids with autism, give them plenty of time to process your instructions. Trying to hurry them along will only lead to frustration and disappointment from everyone involved, which you want to avoid as much as possible. Set them up for success by providing them with the patience they need.

Passionate About Potential

At Early Autism Services, we help families and caregivers of children with autism by teaching foundational skills. Our accredited, licensed professionals offer personalized applied behavior analysis therapy, an evidence-based autism treatment recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association. Our compassionate, professional team works with children and families throughout the United States, Australia and India. Contact us to request your complimentary consultation.

The ABC's of Behavior

The ABC’s of Behavior

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What Are the ABCs?

Molly’s daughter, Sarah, suddenly started running away when it was time for bed. Molly would chase her around the house, and this would cause bedtime to be much later. Molly thought this was because Sarah didn’t want to go to bed. However, after learning about antecedent, behavior, consequence data, or ABC, she realized Sarah was running away because she wanted her mother’s attention.

After this realization, Molly stopped chasing Sarah and would instead announce that it was time for bed and, without much ceremony, guide Sarah to her bedroom to put on her PJs. ABC data changed how Molly reacted, which in turn, changed Sarah’s behavior.

The purpose of ABC for autism is to record events or actions that occur before and after someone exhibits a behavior.

Some of you may be wondering, what even is an antecedent? Allow us to explain.

An antecedent is an event or behavior that occurs before a target behavior (i.e., the behavior of interest) occurs. Another way to think of an antecedent is as the “trigger” for a targeted behavior. Common triggers include sensory sensitivities to noises/lights, new routines, demands, transitions, and denied access to something preferred, such as a toy.

For the behavior portion, it means any action that a person exhibits following the antecedent. The last part of the term is consequence, which is what occurs immediately after the behavior. These consequences help practitioners determine what is maintaining a behavior. For example, if every time a child cries (behavior), he gets a chocolate bar (consequence), gaining the chocolate bar after crying would be the maintaining consequence.

The ABC's of Behavior
Practice the ABC with your child

The Purpose of ABC Data Collection

After learning about what the ABCs stand for, you may be wondering what the purpose is for this data. Recording ABC data is critical in applied behavior analysis (ABA) because it helps determine what leads to a child’s behavior. ABC Data collection allows us to recognize what the behavior can look like and whether it is positive or negative.

With more in-depth ABC data, we can also get an idea of how long the behavior may last, a certain time of day the behavior is more likely to occur, and it can help us be more in-tuned to environmental triggers that may cause the behavior at hand.

For practitioners in the field, using ABC data can help hypothesize the function of the behavior. In other words, this helps providers create an intervention plan for the person to target a behavior. It also helps with examining any patterns in what comes before and after the behavior.

For example, each time Jim sees the cookie jar (antecedent), he begins to scream and cry (behavior), which leads to his babysitter giving him a cookie to reduce his screaming and crying (consequence)

From an ABA viewpoint, recording ABC data in this scenario is extremely helpful because it can help a practitioner determine that Jim’s behavior is due to wanting a cookie. His behavior continues because he knows his babysitter will give him a cookie if he screams and cries.

Instead of screaming and crying, using ABA Jim can learn to ask for a cookie politely. From this data, his babysitter can also receive information about scenarios when it would be appropriate to give Jim a cookie but to not do so when he screams and cries.

How to Take ABC Data

Parents, teachers, caregivers, practitioners, and therapists are examples of the many individuals who can record ABC data. Not everyone has prior experience using ABC data, so keep reading for helpful tips on making the process (especially if it is your first time)as smooth as possible.

You can easily access and print many data sheets on the internet. All ABC datasheets will include separate boxes labeled “Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence,” but it is best to choose a data sheet that is the most user-friendly to you!  There are also tons of video resources on YouTube and via Google search that explain how to take ABC data.

When beginning to take data, it is best to not overwhelm yourself and take data for the whole day. Start by taking data a few times through the day when you anticipate the behavior or while it is happening. Once you begin writing down what you witness, you want to be as clear and descriptive as possible while keeping in mind that you’ll be looking for what comes before the behavior, what the behavior looks like, and what comes after the behavior.

After becoming comfortable with tracking these three steps, you can start recording how long the behavior lasts, the time of day, and how many times a day it occurs. Parents should take ABC data until they feel they have enough to form conclusions about the behavior.

The ABCs may be unfamiliar at first, but it helps us track behaviors, and learn more about a child’s needs and areas of improvement. Ultimately, getting to know the ABCs allows us to be one step closer to progress!

Tips for Taking ABC Data

There are multiple ways you can approach recording ABC data. Some people prefer more detailed sheets where you can write down specific actions and the time they occurred, others prefer a simplified sheet where they can jot down a few notes about the behavior.

No matter which method you prefer, here are a few general tips to guide your ABA data collection:

  • Record objective data: Recording a challenging behavior can cause you to feel frustrated or upset as you try to understand why your child is acting this way. Try to leave your personal feelings out of your recordings and record the behavior you are observing objectively.
  • Write down direct observations: It can be tempting to guess your child’s motivations behind their actions. Write down only what you observe to improve the accuracy of your data.
  • Don’t interpret the behavior: It can be tempting to analyze why your child is acting in a certain way. However, if we knew this motivation, there would be no need to record this data. When recoding, write down what you see or hear and leave your interpretations for a later time.

The ABC's of Behavior & Functions of Behavior

Looking for Behavioral Therapy? Try Early Autism Services Today

If you’re looking for additional ways to help your child improve their behavior, Early Austim Services is here to help. We offer a variety of applied behavior analysis therapy options that can take place either in your home or at one of our centers across the United States, Australia, and India. Our primary goal is to help your child reach their full potential, and we will cater our programs to fit your child’s exact needs.

To take advantage of our services, please schedule a free consultation today!