Teaching children with autism

Teaching Children with Autism: A Review of the Basics
As a general rule, teaching is as simple as A-B-C:
• Antecedent Conditions – something that happens just before, and serves as a cue for, the behaviour that you want the child to learn (also called the Discriminative Stimulus or SD).
• Behaviour – something that the child does in Response to the antecedent conditions.
• Consequences which increase the likelihood of occurrence of that behaviour when the child is presented with that particular Antecedent. (Such consequences are said to reinforce, or to be a reinforcer for, the behaviour that they follow).
Since Reinforcement is a consequesnce that strengthens the behavior that it follows, remember that it needs to occur immediately after the behavior that you wish to strengthen (or as soon after as feasible). It can be the provision of something desirable, such as a piece of cookie (positive reinforcement) or the removal of something undesirable, such as the removal of some task demand (negative reinforcement). It is much harder to find appropriate negative reinforcers than it is to find appropriate positive reinforcers, so think “positive.”
As a general rule, consequences that the child finds rewarding are going to be good reinforcers, although this is not always the case. And the only sure way to determine what will be reinforcing a particular behaviour is to present the consequence after the behaviour and see if the behaviour is strengthened – because that is how reinforcement is defined.
Fortunately, at some point in the learning process, language, social interaction and social approval/praise can become enjoyable for the child and, therefore, likely to be reinforcing in and of themselves. At that point, the instructor doesn’t have to be continually available to keep reinforcing language and social behaviours with arbitrary consequences (such as toys and edibles) in order for the child to continue to engage in them.
Reinforcement can occur in response to every instance of a behaviour (a continuous reinforcement schedule) or less frequently (an intermittent reinforcement schedule). Moving from a continuous reinforcement schedule to an intermittent one is known as “thinning the reinforcement schedule.” An intermittent reinforcement schedule can be fixed (e.g., every second, or third, or fourth, fifth, or sixth, etc. trial) or variable (e.g., and average of once every second, or third, or fourth, fifth, or sixth, etc. trial – which is referred to as a VR, for variable reinforcement, schedule).

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