If a student is very anxious or upset, it may be necessary for the student to leave the situation to calm down before any redirection or teaching of alternative behaviours can occur. This approach can be combined with positive programming strategies, such as teaching students to recognize when they are becoming anxious, and teaching them to independently remove themselves from the situation before they lose control of their behaviour. Because removal from the learning environment as a consequence is a serious form of intervention, it should be cautiously used and carefully documented. Token economy A system of reinforcement for desired behaviour can be set up, in which receiving a token is contingent upon the student performing the desired response. Tokens, which can be poker chips, tickets, or points recorded on a form or graph, are earned by the student for completion of tasks or other appropriate behaviour. Earned tokens are then “cashed in” for designated reinforcers known to increase behaviours for that student, such as tangibles (food or other desired objects) or preferred activities (time on the computer, use of a Walkman, or access to a favourite person). Tokens can provide an immediate pay-off for the student, which is a stronger reinforcer than waiting until the end of a class or day. A token system is more effective than social reinforcers for some students with autism who do not respond to social reinforcers such as praise. When using a token system, teachers should still pair the awarding of token with praise so that the tokens can eventually be phased out and replaced by more natural reinforcers in the student’s life. It is not advisable to use a token system as punishment, with tokens removed. Shaping behaviour Teaching the new acceptable behaviour may involve shaping the behaviour so that approximations of the desired behaviour are reinforced. Once the student is reinforced for an approximation of the desired behaviour, reinforcement is only provided for closer approximations. For example, if the goal is for a student to stay on task for 15 minutes, the following shaping procedure might be used: Desired Behaviour = 15 minutes on mathematics tasks Student is reinforced for 2 minutes of on-task behaviour. TEACHING STUDENTS WITH AUTISM: A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR SCHOOLS 67 M A N A G I N G C H A L L E N G I N G B E H A V I O U R Chapter Five
TEACHING STUDENTS WITH AUTISM: A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR SCHOOLS 68 Student is reinforced for 4 minutes of on-task behaviour. Student is reinforced for 6 minutes of on-task behaviour. Student is reinforced for 10 minutes of on-task behaviour. Student is reinforced for 12 minutes of on-task behaviour. Student is reinforced for 15 minutes of on-task behaviour.
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