If your child receives ABA therapy, you’ve likely heard a whole lot of talk about reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is at the center of what we do and once an effective reinforcer has been identified for your child, you’ll be amazed at how effective this can be! Positive reinforcement can be used to increase any behavior, including potty training, eye contact, communication, play, skills, and so much more!
You probably have a pretty good idea of what items and activities are reinforcing for your child. Sometimes, however, reinforcers lose their effectiveness after a child has received a lot of a particular reinforcer. This is called satiation. But don’t worry! Withholding that particular item or activity for a while (known as deprivation) can increase the value of that reinforcer once more.
In addition to satiation, children’s preferences naturally change, just like they do for adults. An effective way to identify your child’s current preferences is to conduct a mini-preference assessment. This can be done at home and doesn’t have to take much time at all. Simply select 4-6 toys and/or edible treats. Lay them out in a row (it may be easiest to do this at a table) and ask your child to pick one. Once they choose an item, write down which one they chose first. Allow your child to have the item and once they consume the edible or after a 1-2 minutes of playing with an item, remove the item. Repeat these steps with the remaining items. Once you’re finished, the list will reveal your child’s most preferred items! Try using the top two or three items as reinforcement for desired behaviors. If providing these to your child after a desired behavior results in an increase in the desired behavior, you can safely say you have an effective reinforcer!
Preference assessments can be great fun for everyone! Enjoy!
A new autism diagnosis can be overwhelming but we are here to lend a hand. We have created a guide packed with helpful information on what parents, siblings, friends, and others can expect.