It matters how you motivate and engage students in order to teach them. One of the students in the classroom, Ryan*, loves game shows and a lot of what he does is equated to a game show. He plays “Fluency Minute to Win It” where he has to say as many numbers, words, sounds, etc. as he can in a minute. There are commercial breaks, grand prizes (usually cheese balls), the teacher is the host, fake cameras, and a buzzer. He loves being the winner and behaves correctly in order to be called a winner.
Be creative and innovative, if the first idea doesn’t work, try another way. Brad took off his shoes and would lose instructional time having them put back on by the teacher. One day one of the teachers left them off. He took off one of his socks, but the teacher made sure he left the other one on and made him realize how uneven he felt. After he worked for a little, she put his sock back on as reinforcement. After he worked a little bit more, she put on one shoe. Once both shoes were back on, they didn’t come off for the rest of the session. Rather than continue losing time by putting them on, she left them off and discovered putting the shoes back on was an effective reinforcer.
It is important to note that positive and negative reinforcement are not equivalent to good and bad reinforcement. Reinforcement is situation specific. Positive is adding and negative is taking away but certain situations need things to be removed rather than added.
Working with kids who have autism is tough but there are moments when you’ll know why you’re doing it. For me, it was the day that Karly hugged me. I help her eat lunch every day and one day after she was finished eating, she just hugged me. It was a really special moment and I was smiling for the rest of the day!
*pseudonyms will be used to protect the privacy of the students