Have you ever wondered what makes us do certain things again and again? For example, why do you get out of bed in the morning? Well, we do things over again because of reinforcement. Reinforcement strengthens our behavior so that we do it again. Life is all about reinforcers, but we should always build and expand our reinforcers. Can you imagine a life where we had the same few things every day? It would be a pretty dull life. As they say, moderation is key.
In Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Reinforcement is how kids learn. This is how they learn how to request for preferred items or activities and replace difficult behaviors with alternate skills or activities, but also learn how to get a peer to engage with them. In ABA, we love figuring out what each child loves! We conduct preference assessments to determine which item or activity they love the most. We then use those items as motivators to help them learn new skills. Can you imagine having a child work for balloons when they do not like balloons? We would have a difficult time having that child motivated to learn something new when they know they are working for something they do not like. Make learning fun for kids!
It is crucial to expand our reinforcers or it will lead to satiation. Satiation is when we need more of something to get the same effect. I like to think of it as having too much of a good thing. For example, I love going out for dinner to celebrate, but if I did that everyday I would get sick of it. By exposing kids to new toys or activities that hopefully they have not seen before, it will make them excited and ready to learn. For example, if a child loves playing with trains and they are always playing with trains at home, then when it comes to working with a therapist or teacher, that child is not going to want to work for trains. The child is not going to feel excited.
Learning is hard and it can be frustrating at times. When you get to work for something different that you love each time, it will make you more eager to learn. As adults, we want to feel motivated throughout our day and kids are the same way. After all, they are just like us!