Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Positive Reinforcement

with 8 comments

Pudding attends a preschool autism class which is based on a modified ABA approach to learning.  Positive reinforcement is very motivating to her at this point in her development.  In fact, any and all other discipline methods we have tried have been spectacular failures.  She has a tendency to withdraw and shut down at the merest hint of disapproval or punishment, which is the very opposite of what we want.  Nonetheless, positive reinforcement can be really difficult to apply at home.  I prefer to use it for certain behaviors that interfere with her daily life.  Some things I just allow to be, the kid has a hard enough time keeping herself together outside of the home, this should be her sanctuary.

When we do it, it works.  Remember how easily she came around to vacuum cleaners?  I do.  Recently we went out to a restaurant.  Atypically for an atypical kid, Pudding LOVES going to restaurants.  For many parents of kids on the spectrum, going to a restaurant is so awful they just stop doing it.  When we find a restaurant that can deal with all the allergy stuff, it usually goes great.  Usually.  Just lately Pudding and Cubby have both been going through a rough spell with sleeping.  This particular day, we were all exhausted.  After a heavy night, and a trying day, the last thing I felt like doing was cooking dinner for the family, so we went out.

Almost as soon as we walked in, I realized it was a mistake.  When she is overtired, Pudding is soon overloaded.  We pulled out the iPad and tortilla chips to keep her going.  When her food arrived, she angrily pushed it away and demanded more chips.  Had it not been for the fact that she hadn’t eaten much that day, I’d have probably conceded and given her the whole bag, but she really needed to eat something more nutritious.  I gave her a chip, and put a small amount of chicken and vegetables on her plate.  She again pushed it away.  I took all the food away, apart from one bite-sized piece of chicken.  She asked for another chip, and I pointed at the plate.  She ate the chicken.  I lavished her with praise, and gave her the chip.  Next I added a little more chicken and vegetables to the plate.  She again asked for a chip, and I pointed at the plate.  She ate everything on the plate, so I gave her a couple of chips, and refilled the plate.  We repeated the process until she finished her meal.  Everybody got what they wanted, and we left the restaurant as quickly as possible- it wasn’t an evening to dawdle!

When it works, it works.  Break it up into a manageable task, reward each step.  Simple.  Positive reinforcement is a great tool when a behavior needs to be changed.  The thing is, if you try it and it doesn’t work, there is more going on than a behavioral issue.  That is what I found out the next time I tried it.  I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

8 Responses

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  1. I have found that parenting is much like training a dog. NT or ASD it doesn’t really matter. Reward the little task (click, treat), reward the little task +1 (click, treat), reward the larger task (click, treat) where you keep ADDING to the task… until it gets longer & longer and then treat at the end. Then scale down the reward until its natural behavior. Move on to the next task. Repeat ad-infinitum.
    You don’t reward the bad behavior, you don’t even give it attention, ignore/distract/change the topic then move on. LONG punishments won’t work for kids or animals.
    Husbands can be kinda be trained in the same way – just don’t tell them that you’re doing it!! 😉

    Trish Reeve

    January 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    • The first part I’m good at, the second not so much. I think my husband is training me, that is why he brings cupcakes home from time to time!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      January 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm

  2. You know that sentence you wrote about some parents just giving up on going to restaurants? Yeah. That’s us.


    January 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    • Yeah, I hear you. Some battles are just not worth fighting. Pudding has her places that she can’t tolerate. If we were to replace restaurants with DIY or Hardware stores, we’d have the same story. She just can’t stand them. Grocery stores we have to go at the right time and with enough snacks and distractions. Pudding likes food, so that helps. Before the allergies we had a built-in reinforcer in the form of dessert, now we have to put more effort in if things don’t go well.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      January 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ipads4autism and Spectrummy Mummy, Spectrummy Mummy. Spectrummy Mummy said: Positive Reinforcement: http://wp.me/pZNhv-lc […]

  4. […] Positive Reinforcement […]

  5. Way to go! You make such a terrific therapist for your child. It’s taken me such a long time to figure out how to adapt these strategies as my own child grows and changes, but the basics remain the same.


    January 27, 2011 at 9:59 am

    • I’m actually pretty terrible, which is why I just pick the occasional behavior rather than trying to do it all the time. I’m really impressed by Pudding’s teachers and aides who do it day in, day out. They rock!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      January 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm

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