Autism Resource blog:

Parent Support University: Week 16

Jul 15, 2020
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Speaker 1 (00:01):

Hello AnswersNow, family and friends. We are back for our weekly edition of our Parents Support University that we've been conducting during the pandemic. I'm Adam Dreyfus. I'm the chief science officer of AnswersNow. And I'm also one of the co-founders. I think we're into our 18th episode, 19th episode. And what we're doing is we're trying to demystify all of the jargon that you hear in today's and especially jargony kind of day. Cause we're gonna be talking about reinforcement and it's one of my favorite topics. Most people think they know what reinforcement means. But they almost always use it incorrectly. So today should hopefully be a little illuminating for some and for the rest of you, you'll be like, I already knew that. So yes looking forward to that just taking care of some housekeeping now we would love you to check out,

Speaker 1 (00:48):

That's our website to learn more about us, who are we? We are a service that connects you a parent or a caregiver or someone with autism directly with an expert through your phone or through your laptop. It's a mobile platform. So you can go onto your Google play store or the Apple store type in AnswersNow all one word, no space between answers and now, and it'll click right up. You'll see our little purple icon. You can download it. We got all kinds of articles on there, but you can sign up to talk to a clinician. You can either do that as kind of a one off, right? Like where you just sign up just to talk to somebody for one session or however you want to talk. But we're really a subscription service so that you sign up and you are connected to that clinician for as long as you want.

Speaker 1 (01:32):

I've been, Answers have been around for four years. I've got clients I've been working, I've been working for with, for over three years. And that's really the strength of it is you get a chance to develop a relationship with someone. They get to know, you know, your kid know what works, what doesn't work. We do ABA services live now. We do take insurance. So go to our website, and check and see if you, if we can take your insurance yet. We are working very hard to get ourselves a panel with all the insurance companies with Medicaid. It's really exciting time at AnswersNow. What parent support university is, is what we want to do is kind of demystify ABA for a lot of folks. And one of the barriers that ABA has kind of thrown up is we got a lot of our jargon, right?

Speaker 1 (02:18):

So we looked around and one of our favorite resources is the National Professional Development Center. About 10 years ago, sat down and said, all right, what do we know works to help kids and adults with autism, not what's the newest flavor of the day. But what do we know works? And so they put together a list of evidence based practices, EBPs, and you can find it on their website, just type in national professional development center. The, the grain is not up and running anymore, but all the materials are there. They've created a series of modules called the afirm modules, A F I R M. And you can click on that and learn much more about all of these different things. The topics that we're talking about for free, it takes about two, two and a half hours to get through each module.

Speaker 1 (02:59):

So you can literally practically become a BCBA. Don’t let the BCBAs know that I said that out loud. But the materials are all there. And there's been a lot of different universities that have put them together. Vanderbilt university has the Iris modules of Virginia Commonwealth university has their autism center of excellence. So that has a lot of resources but we're going just down the NPC list. And so this week is going to be reinforcement. Reinforcement is one of those sounds like a really common word. Sounds like, you know what it means, but it is probably the most misunderstood phenomena, I guess it would be the best way to describe it. Cause it's a, it's an explanation for how behavior occurs. So we're going into that in just a second here. Definitely check out,, check out our blogs that we have on there.

Speaker 1 (03:54):

We've got all kinds of articles. You can see some of our clinicians, you can find out what we've been up to. So check that out and now into the meat of the matter. So reinforcement, it is so reinforcement in this particular case, is an evidence based practice. It means that reinforcement has been demonstrated to help kids and adults diagnosed with autism. It's really kind of tricky to have it stand by itself like that. Cause really when you think of all the other interventions that we've talked about they use reinforcement. Reinforcement is a something that's kind of used to get what you want. It's not really a standalone intervention. It's what's woven into all of the different things that we do. So a good basic example of a reinforcement is say, I hold this coma, brush, sorry. And the child says brush.

Speaker 1 (04:51):

And I say, good job. That's reinforcement, right? Me saying, good job is reinforcement. Reinforcement is anything you add into a situation that increases behavior. So it's, it's a little confusing like that. Cause it, it sounds like a reward and it certainly does roughly equivalent to a reward, but the key is it increases the future sure occurrences of that behavior. So one of the things that's a little misunderstood is you don't really know if something's reinforcing when you do it, right. You only know if it works down the road. So say my kid doesn't pick up his socks and he picks up his socks and I say, Hey, great job, picking up your socks. And I think I'm reinforcing him. Right. But he doesn't pick up his socks anymore. And then he did it before. So there's another time he comes along and he picks up his socks and I try it again.

Speaker 1 (05:55):

Oh, Hey, great job picking your socks. But it doesn't increase his sock picking up behavior. So then it's not really reinforcement. I might be rewarding him. He might like me to give him a little Pat on the back. But if it doesn't increase the behavior you want and it's not reinforcement also reinforcement is why to behaviors. You don't want go up crying, screaming, running away. Those have been reinforced. That's why they're occurring. Almost every time I get a phone call because some behavior is spiking, right. Whether that's aggression, self-injury swearing, you name it. I usually only get called when things get a little out of control. And one of the big challenges is figuring out right away. Like where's the reinforcement coming from? Cause I know this behavior is being reinforced, why it's going up. So it's a good rule to think about when you're thinking about any kind of behavior.

Speaker 1 (06:55):

Because most of the time you call someone like me or you know, you get someone else in there something's happening that you don't like, maybe he's hitting himself on the, his head on the floor more maybe he's eating something that you don't want him to eat, but it had at a higher rate than he used to. Like he used to be like, eh, it's not that big a deal. He needs a little paper, but now he's eating newspapers. You're like, all right, what's going on here? Important to remember. Think about what, where is the reinforcement? What’s happening that is causing this behavior. So keys to reinforcement are for the most part, reinforcement is what happens right after the behavior immediately after the behavior, like really quickly, this can get us in a little bit of trouble sometimes trying to figure out what's going on because I am a teacher and I'm a, I'm writing it chalkboard.

Speaker 1 (07:42):

And I hear something right. Bang. And I turn around, I see somebody up out of their chair. Sit down. In my head I am thinking, alright, what happened? Why are they out of their chair? Here's the problem. I didn't see what happened before they got up out of their chair. And the reason they got up out of their chair happened right away. So maybe they were trying to get away from somebody. Maybe they're trying to get somebody's attention. It's okay. But it's even that time, it takes me to turn around is the, the reinforcement for that behavior can be lost the consequence. But also we've talked about consequences a lot. So reinforcement can be pretty tricky. But reinforcement is anything that, so you either add something, Hey, I'm gonna give you a dollar every time that you do that, I'm gonna give you a high five.

Speaker 1 (08:32):

I'm gonna tell you great job. These are all adding something, right? Like that's a reinforcement like that has an R with a plus next to it. Right. You're adding something to it, but you can also take something away. And it's reinforcing, which sounds like punishment, but a good example is sunscreen, right? Oh, how do I skate hearts and getting too much stuff? I put something on. I add something to my skin. Now I don’t get sunburned. And that means I'll put on more sunscreen next time. Cause it works. So again, you want to think it's very, the first time I put on sunscreen is not proof that there's reinforcement yet. Right? Cause it's only the first time I've done it. You've only seen me do it once. But if it works, it keeps me putting on sunscreen. It increases my putting on sunscreen behavior.

Speaker 1 (09:18):

Then it's reinforcement. It is impossible to talk about reinforcement without talking about punishment because there are flip sides of the same thing. Punishment just means when your adding something or taking something away, that decreases behavior. Now, why is this important? People get a little dodgy about, Oh, why did he say punishment? Because frequently when we think that we're punishing somebody, we're reinforcing them. So your kid doesn't listen to you. You yell at him and you want him to listen to you more, but he listens to you less, your reinforcing talking, listening to you less. You don't think you are, but you are in. So many of our behaviors are like that. We think that we're punishing them. When in fact we're reinforcing them. And how do we know that behavior is going up? That's your clearest indication that reinforcement is happening somewhere. And chances are, if you're the parent or the guardian or something, it's probably you, it's probably something that you're doing.

Speaker 1 (10:18):

And that's really where the kind of the magic of ABA comes in. You'll get a therapist that comes in here. Oh, why does my kid, you know, listen to you a little bit more because they're trained to be very careful about what they reinforce and very careful about what they punish and to use those phenomena is kind of lack of a better word. Use those rules of behavior to have the child behave in a way that they is more socially appropriate and works better for them. And consequently be adults. So again, reinforcement behavior goes up. So if you've got a kid who's running away from you once a day, and now he's running away from you twice, 10 times a day, his behavior is being reinforced somehow. And it's something probably that you're doing. If he hits his sister once a day and now he's hit his sister 10 times a day, he's being reinforced probably in that case, by her reaction, right?

Speaker 1 (11:14):

He's that's, I've got a boy and a girl that's usually the way it works. But it's important to think of reinforcement is not a reward. It is something that results in behavior going up. Something's either being added most of the time, right? Like that's what we're trying to do. Hey, I'll give you a cookie. Hey, here's a high five. Hey said, these are the things that we're trying to do to increase behaviors, but, or increase the behaviors that we want. But if we see the behaviors, we don't want going up, the same thing is happening. The exact same, same thing. So in the same way, like say it worked really well. You got your kids to clean his room because every time he cleaned his room, he gave him a quarter and he got to build up some money. You got to do something perfect.

Speaker 1 (11:51):

Right. That's a good of sounds like a reward. Right. and it is, we weren't sure it was reinforcement, but as he kept earning the quarters and he kept cleaning his room, clean room, cleaning behavior went way up and it worked, same thing is happening if he's doing something you don't want. Somehow it's being reinforced. Somehow you're giving it a quarter. I I liken it to watering, right? You want to water the plant and the plant grows reinforcement is like that. You want to water the behaviors that you want. Now, this is something that we forget a lot. When the kids doing what we want them to do when they just clean their room without being ask, when they're walking along without giving their sister a hard time when they're not banging their heads on something, that's when you want to reinforce it, right. That's what you want to do.

Speaker 1 (12:39):

You want to catch them doing stuff that you want to see. So it's hard to remember. Could you glance over there just sitting and share everything was fine, right? But that's what you want. You want them to be able to sit in a chair and everything being fine. That's the moment that you say, Hey, thank you so much. Whatever the thing is that, you know, they really like, so it could be your attention. Hey, give him a hug. It could be my, my daughter likes these days, what she calls it, healthy Sprite sugar-free Sprite. It should do almost anything for sugar-free spray. So she's doing exactly what I want. Hey, here's a little cup of sugar free.  And it doesn't come out of nowhere or what you're doing is watering that behavior that you want. So again, I could go on and on about this.

Speaker 1 (13:20):

This is one of my favorite topics, reinforcement slash punishment which we don't talk about all the time. I want to remind you, I'm Adam Dreyfus, the chief science officer of AnswersNow you can find out more about us at You can also download our app off of your the Apple store or the Google play store. Just type in AnswersNow, all one word, no space in the middle there. You'll see a little purple icon and you can set up to talk to someone like me, it doesn't it have to be me. I'm an acquired taste but you can definitely get your own a BCBA. And we do take insurance now. So we've got a page where you can type in your information and we will tell you whether or not we're accepting your insurance now.

Speaker 1 (14:02):

But really what we want to do is connect you to someone that can help you out. You are not alone. There are a few things on earth, more difficult than raising a child or an adult diagnosed with autism. It is a unique challenge. And we're here to tell you right now A you're not alone B we do have answers C we are a lot easier to get a hold of than you would have thought. And that respite hope is right around the corner. Especially like as if things aren't hard enough, let's throw a pandemic on top of it, and then some racial justice rights. So we feel you we're here for you. We're a community folks. Just like you and we look forward to hearing from you. So check us out at and check us out at the app store and remember what are the behaviors that you want reinforce the behavior that you want? Feel free to drop us a line, always happy to answer questions, and we will see you soon.

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