Praise. The Most Powerful Reinforcement

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The other day I was driving my 3 children to an event.  We had rushed out the door, and my youngest son, Declan, who has Autism, did not eat his dinner.  As a grazer, he rarely sits to eat.  To compensate, I made his favorite chicken nuggets and put them on a plate in his lap once he was strapped into the car.

As we were driving, Declan told me I needed to be careful with the car.  Declan is 5 years old, and I believed he was telling me to be careful as cars are big machines that could be dangerous.  But no, he followed his statement with, “Because the car might make my chicken fall and then I will have no chicken.”

There are so many times I forget how straightforward Declan’s thought process is.  So many times I am looking for a deeper meaning in a situation to be affronted with the most obvious.  I may look at a negative interaction with someone and wonder why the person was so rude.  Then I will hear Declan say, “he was wearing a mad face.”

All 3 of my children have different strengths and “soon to be” strengths.  Behavior modification for each has been tailored to their best pattern of learning.  What do they respond to?  Is it “time-outs?”  Negative reinforcement, i.e., take a toy or TV away?  Positive Reinforcement, i.e., here is a sticker?  For Declan, the number one way to modify unwanted behavior is by using PRAISE.

There has been a common misconception that children or adults with Autism are unable to see emotions in others.  For my son, this is not the case.  He is very aware of the emotions of others, especially positive emotions.  Declan loves to see others happy!  Declan does not go on the potty for a sticker – he goes to see you jump up and down, cheer, smile and give him a hug!  PRAISE is how you get him to do something favorable again!

Yes, time outs are necessary – there is never any hitting.  But it is when we see him stop himself from hitting when he is mad or frustrated, and PRAISE that present self-awareness consistently, that we will see a decrease in hitting.

I will continue to praise positive behavior in Declan.  This will help increase Declan’s “soon to be” strengths.  Declan will continue to show me to look at the world in an uncomplicated honest way.  Together, we are going to be just fine.


[Written in response to the daily prompt: PRAISE]



2 thoughts on “Praise. The Most Powerful Reinforcement

  1. I’m thankful that you continue educate families and raise awareness about Autism. As a grandmother I learn so much by you sharing your stories. Autism is not easy. With all the roller coaster of emotions and the everyday crisies you offer support and hope and remind me to celebrate every achievement.

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