Monday, February 27, 2017

Around Town Round Up--Reinforcement Systems

One key evidence-based practice that we suggest to teams in the use of Reinforcement

When we want to INCREASE the likelihood of a desired behavior occurring, we need to recognize that adding a desired reward, event or outcome after the behavior is the most likely way to increase the occurrence of that desired behavior. In many classrooms, teachers implement a reinforcement system to increase the likelihood that students will perform desired behaviors such as work completion or compliance with adult-directed tasks. 

Today's Around Town Round Up focuses on the various Reinforcement Systems we have seen across the Miami Valley. 

The first step to implementing a reinforcement system is determining a reinforcement menu. It is important to tailor your reinforcement menu to the individual needs and preferences of the student. What may be reinforcing for one student, may not be reinforcing for another. Individuals may be reinforced using edibles (food and liquid), tangibles (stickers, money), social (praise, attention), sensory (feels, looks, smells, or sounds good), or special interests/activities. One way we determine which type of reinforcement is most effective for an individual is through the use of surveys. Click on the survey titles below to be guided to some of our favorite reinforcement surveys!

Once you have determined what will be reinforcing for the student, develop a menu of options for the student to choose from using objects, pictures, symbols, and/or words. When asking the student to choose a reinforcer, make sure to only present the items that you are willing to provide at that moment. For instance, swinging outside on a snowy winter day would not be an option. 

This individualized menu is velcro'd on the inside of the student's daily binder. 
Jennifer McGowan, Smith Middle School

This menu is velcro'd on the inside of a file folder individualized for the student.
Emily Ottmar, Stevenson Elementary

This reinforcement menu incorporates coin counting skills and uses visual cues to help students see how many coins must be earned to earn various reinforcers. Higher motivating activities have a higher value. Unavailable options are covered with a post-it note to indicate they cannot be chosen.

Anne Rosenbaum, Orchard Park Elementary

Leslie Mann, Smith Middle School
This is a great example of incorporating interests in a reinforcement system!
Heather Balkcom, Springcreek Primary

Then, determine how you will communicate expectations for earning reinforcement to the student. Many times we will see that a teacher has put a lot of thought and planning into developing a system for the student, however if the student isn't explicitly taught the expectation and given a visual way to convey these expectations it all falls apart! Such a shame after all of that planning!

One of our favorite reinforcement systems is the use of a visual contract. A visual contract is a tool used to facilitate student compliance for task completion in the classroom. Some students need visual cues to help them understand what is expected of them and how and when they can obtain a desired object or activity. You must decide how many tasks or steps the student needs to complete before he can earn the reward.   Start with a number you feel the student can tolerate and be successful.   Each step or task is represented on the contract.  This can be with a picture or token such as a button, a poker chip or some type of durable item that can be secured with Velcro.  Secure the tokens below the symbol of the reinforcement. 

These examples incorporate interests such as Backyardigans or elephants. There are velcro dots for each task the student needs to complete. On the inside of each folder, is the student's individualized reinforcment menu where they can choose what they want to work for and place it on the outside of the folder. 

Emily Ottmar, Stevenson Elementary
 These examples use smiley face tokens.
Jennifer McGowan, Smith Middle School

In this example, instead of a set number of velcro dots, the teacher used a velcro strip which gives some flexibility to the number of tasks to be completed. When implementing this visual contract, the teacher would only set up the number of tokens to correspond with the number of tasks.

For many students, edible reinforcers can be very motivating! Using a pill box to hold edibles to be earned after each task has been an effective intervention we have seen. This also provides ongoing reinforcement to keep students motivated throughout a work session. Many edibles can be broken or cut up. A little goes a long way!

It is important that students are able to interact with their visual contract through taking off tokens or opening their pill box as they complete tasks.  This helps students see that the work is "going away" and they are getting closer to their reinforcement. When all the tokens are removed from the contract, the student can take the reinforcement.

If your student can read, you can create a contract that looks more age-appropriate, such as a checklist. Start with tasks that are easily obtainable at the beginning of the list to build positive momentum. End with the reinforcing item at the bottom of the list. Many teams laminate their checklist sheets or slip it into a page protector and use dry erase or Vis-a-Vis markers to write assignment steps. For reoccurring assignments or routines, you can laminate a completed list to use when needed.

Again it is important that the student has the opportunity to interact with their checklist and can check off as they go. Everyone loves the satisfaction of checking off items on their To Do list!

Keep in mind some students may need a more frequent schedule of reinforcement as they build stamina in performing desired behaviors. You may need to start with immediate reinforcement following a desired behavior. Gradually, you can work up to more delayed or intermittent reinforcement.

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