Fact sheet: information on creating a behavior management program fora child with Autism, a common Autism Spectrum Disorder


The rewards or "reinforcement" that we use to recognize and promote appropriate student behavior differ in the degree to which they promote "inner control". Below, you will see various common "reinforcers" separated into 10 different levels. Level 10 includes "primary reinforcers" (food items), the lowest level of reinforcement. Level one items represent strong internal motivation on the part of the student. These kids don't need lower level reinforcers (although they are appreciated when given periodically).


Whenever you are trying to motivate a youngster, always use the highest level of reinforcement possible (with some regression at times for certain activities/reasons). Initially, some youngsters will need food or tangible items to get them to display appropriate behavior, but we will strive to help them move to higher levels. We help youngsters to move to higher levels of reinforcement by presenting the present reinforcers (for example, special priviledges/level 7) at the same time as one at a higher level (for example, social recognition/level 6). This "pairing" of reinforcers helps the higher level one to take on reinforcing value (due to it's association with the present reward). Lower level reinforcers are then "faded out" (decreased) as higher level ones start to work.


Your task: In your groups of two or three (or by yourself if no one else is around), add more reinforcers to each category (start at the lowest level of "10" which you will find to be the easiest, and move up to category "1"). You can find an answer key at the bottom, but try to complete as much as possible before checking out those options.


Level 1. Challenging oneself for self-evaluation purposes

-evaluating one's own work (strengths and weaknesses) and identifying ways to improve
-evaluating the work of one's peers on material that s/he believes s/he has mastered
-designing the master key
-recording personal performance on a graph and setting goals for oneself


Level 2. Deciding how s/he will learn the material

-class discussion
-film strips
-language master
-reading/library research


Level 3. The work products effect the look of the classroom

-designing and making a bulletin board that shows what has been learned
-meeting a certain performance level allows the privelidge of making room changes
(e.g., seating arrangement, paper taped over the door window)


Level 4. Student decides upon the conditions under which s/he works

(as long as s/he is on task)
-dim lighting
-music playing
-students decide when they have learned the material and may stop at that point (for eval.)
-deciding on the order in which to study different subjects/topics


Level 5. Response Topography

(Students decide how they will display/evidence their

-writing their work on the board
-writing in magic marker
-recording their answers on audiotape


Level 6. Social Approval

(working for the recognition and approval of others)

-displaying work on the "Super worker" board
-telephone call home to parents/guardians


Level 7. Special Priviledges

(effort/performance earns preferred duties)

-filmstrip projectionist
-collecting assignments
-line leader


Level 8. Contingent Activities

(The "Premack principle"---You must do the activity you dislike to earn the one you enjoy)
-playing a favorite game
-learning a new magic trick from the teacher
-looking out the window at the construction crews


Level 9. Tangible Rewards

(something that can be held/touched, but is not eaten)

-achievement badge
-tokens to be used toward prizes


Level 10. Edible Rewards

("Primary reinforcers")

-peanuts (watch out..lots of kids have allergies to these)
-carrot sticks
-pieces of chocolate (many people now question the use of "junk food" in reinforcing youngsters)
-corn chips (see comment for "chocolate", but what if your student doesn't like "healthy" food?)


** Loosely adapted from: D. Raschke (1981). Designing reinforcement surveys. Teaching Exceptional Children, December. (Some reference information was lost).


Click to shut autism information fact sheet on behavior management

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This article adapted with permission from www.behavioradvisor.com and remains under their copyright

Positive reinforcement is generally the most effective behavior management strategy in dealing with challenging behaviors of childen with Autism Spectrum Disorders. It can also be used to help autistic children to learn new behaviors, from toileting through to alternatives to stereotypic behaviors.