Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Power of Reinforcement

I've struggled lately to blog, really struggled trying to think of something to write about and the realisation hit me that this was because I had started to write for the reader, rather than for myself. When I first started blogging, I found it cathartic to be open about my feelings and talk about our journey, however, lately I have found that as I'm not "anonymous" anymore, and several people know me in person, or through my family, I'm more aware of what I put to paper. This in itself has made me cautious and I've lost the groove as such. In other words... I no longer found it reinforcing.

All autie and aspie parents will know the value of a good reinforcer. A good one can help turn a reluctant learner into an active participant in a task. We learn very early on that what we would previously have thought of as "bribery and corruption" had another name when applied using the principals of ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis).

In short, a reinforcer is an item or activity that can be used as a reward for attempting a task that will ensure that the child will attempt that task again, (or in jargon - Reinforcement is a term for the delivery of a stimulus, (immediately or shortly) after a response, that results in an increase in the future rate or probability of that response). Its something that happens to us all everyday of our lives, but we never really put a name on it. People who dislike their jobs, but who smile when they reach payday, parents who hate cooking, but who love to sit around the table with their family watching them enjoy the food they've prepared (well ok, maybe not in this house, but I do believe it happens in some houses :) The donkey who follows the carrot dangling before him... ok I'm going to far now... but you get the idea!

When you are faced with a diagnosis, words such as ABA, PECS, Lamh, Intraverbals, Mands, Echoics etc... all seem like a foreign language, and many parents are daunted by the thoughts of what they'll have to learn to help their child. Some parents might prefer to take the ostrich approach for a while, afraid of starting something they feel they themselves might not understand. The jargon and lingo are rattling around like a foreign language inside their heads and it is easy to forget when talking to the parent of a newly diagnosed autie or aspie that they don't understand the language yet. There is a fantastic introductory course in ABA detailed on the IAA blog here that if you can get to, please do. Having someone translate the jargon will help you realise that it's not an impossible task, and in fact is quite logical and makes a huge amount of sense. If your child is non verbal, there is a two day PECS course which you can read about here, and if your child is already using PECS, perhaps you might like to look at this post about the Grace App for the iPhone and gladly throw the dreaded laminater in the bin...

(right, blog post done... now for that chocolate I promised myself :)


Lisamaree said...

That's the way, set up your own reinforcer schedule and watch that mand rate grow!!! xx

Jen said...

I have been feeling a bit off form with blogging recently too, struggling rather than the words flowing and I think you are right, its the shift in having to watch what we say because people we know are reading, just being that little bit more wary.

Some good info on courses there, will go look into them more.

Now, need to find myself a reinforcer. I might even try a few things to see what works best, while avoiding edibles lol.

Hope to see you around a bit more:) Jen xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Petunia
I just want to say that I love your blogs and they have helped me so much in the last year especially on days when I have felt that I dont know enough about ASD, or enough about all the jargon the professionals use, I feel its a job to most of them but its life for you and everyone who blogs here and ye know best. So a big thank you for blogging, I really appreciate it.
Mossy Mu

Casdok said...

Staff maybe finding out that i blog and what you describe is exactly what i am afraid of.

Petunia said...

@Cas, I read that on your last blog post. What makes you think the staff at Cs new home are reading your blog? Has something been said? Its no fun feeling like you cant express yourself fully for fear of upsetting the apple cart as such xx

@Jen, I would never have realised that you're a bit off form as it's not showing in your posts! I need to steer away from the edibles too as have reinforced myself back into a size 16 lol! Oh well...

@Mossy Mu, thank you so much for your kind words. I love to hear that someone gets something from what I've written. Thank you x

@Hammie, I have to learn to mand more... Unfortunately, the times I have with certain people I don't think I'm understood lol! May have to take out the laminator hehe...

Jean said...

Myself and The Husband have enrolled to do the ABA course. Hopefully it'll help us get around a few "issues" we have with Bob.
Blogging is tricky. Because we write alone, in a quiet(ish) place to a largely invisible audience, it's easy to get lulled into writing for yourself (...but personally I feel the real magic is in the personal stuff).
The trick is to be responsible about it, and to respect other people's privacy and feelings, and not to put yourself in a vulnerable position. Easy, eh???
Maybe think about changing the goals you want to achieve from blogging...if you're done with catharsis, perhaps you could aim to inform, educate or whatever feels right to you.
Just a few thoughts!
Great to see a new post from you XXX

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Love the new look Petunia! As you know, yours was the aspie blog I found first after my son'e diagnosis and reading it made me feel comforted, that aspergers was okay and that I could cope. Great to see you back blogging as well - I totally get the problem with lack of anonymity, there are so many things I want to blog about but can't, because of the people involved. Saying that I'm still writing mostly for myself - putting stuff out there because I just HAVE to tell someone! Looking forward to your next post xx

jazzygal said...

Nice post Petunia! I think I understand what you're saying about blogging. Most of you started blogging by telling your fabulous stories. Then you get up to date and then the blog becomes about day-to-day things, which maybe means your blog simply changes course? So it's no longer just about sharing your story..... it becomes more informative. Your blog just evolves I suppose.

I didn't start off like that, I just randomly blogged. THEN I shared the Mainstream stuff and now I'm random again! Frankly my blog just reflects my disorganised head!

A regards anonymity, I deal with that in my own unique way. Not just the Ostrich in the sand! As I've commented elsewhere I'm like the child who puts his hands over his eyes and reckons as he can't see anyone, they can't see him! So I blissfully type away in solitude, with my little pseudonym.....and as no-one sees me do it they don't know it's me!! None of my family reads it. My SIL is on fb but as I've my hands over my eyes I know she doesn't see it ;-) Although, I do hold some things back.... just in case.

Anyway, welcome back! You'll find YOUR way. Nice start with the new look..... I'm impressed. And jealous! xx Jazzy

MichelleTwinMum said...

Hi, I have just found you and bookmarked you. Thanks for a really useful post. My little man is being referred for a full assessment as they belive he might have Aspergers. Mich x

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