Episode 047: Question From Audience: Automatic Reinforcement

A member of our audience brought a situation to us that involves a three-year-old non-speaking autistic child. He has a tendency to open and close sliding doors and also a tendency to hurt other children. He’s the same across all environments. This type of behavior is worth targeting, especially since other kids are being injured. Based on the details we have, it seems like the behavior is getting automatically reinforced. Sensory or automatic behaviors often become the catch-all for things that have no antecedents. Kids will sometimes engage in automatic behaviors just because they feel good.

After you determine that a behavior is being automatically reinforced, you have to then determine what it is about the behavior that the child likes. In other words, you have to figure out the function of the reinforcement. With our example, it could be that the child really enjoys the visual of seeing doors open and close, or an associated sound. Sometimes it helps if you engage in the behavior yourself to explore the possibilities. Once you figure out the function, then you can take a look at potential replacement behaviors.

What’s Inside:

  • How to determine the function of automatically reinforced behaviors.
  • How to introduce replacement behaviors.
  • When to reduce a sensory behavior.

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