Reinforcement–the addition or the removal of a stimulus in order to increase the likelihood of a behavior happening again in the future–is another important strategy that we utilize at SESI. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that is only reinforcement if it changes future behavior. Reinforcement in the form of verbal praise uses language such as, “Great job pushing in your chair!” or “I love that you raised your hand!”. These statements are behavior-specific so students know exactly which behavior they engaged in that was being addressed. Tangible reinforcement, on the other hand, is a physical form of reinforcement, such as a piece of candy, a toy, or other physical items that appeal to a student’s senses. In the case of tangible reinforcement, it’s important to utilize tools like preference assessments to ensure that the rewards being offered to the students are actually motivating for them.
Another component of ABA that SESI employs is the use of data collection and data analysis to determine whether our strategies are working. Taking data that is available to us, we are able to see exactly when our program started working and what types of modifications may be necessary. Without data to back up our interventions, it becomes much more difficult to determine if what we’re doing is effective. Data should be collected on the occurrence of behaviors we want to see increase as well as behaviors we look to decrease; from there, we can better formulate a strategy to address both desirable and undesirable behaviors.