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"Reward Systems" for Kids on the Spectrum: Are They Effective?


Reward systems …do they work? We are trying to come up with some kind of reward system and what works??? Stickers? When he completes an assignment, he does not want to work at all, only on his terms.


Even though rewards can inspire a youngster with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's to cooperate, you will need to differentiate between discipline and behavior modification. Offering your child stickers for what you would like him to do will often produce initial results.

Having said that, the newness of the incentive plan will wear off (sometimes rather quickly), and you will still have to impose negative consequences for improper conduct when it happens.

Obviously, much will depend on your son. A young child that is naturally driven towards approval may react to positive reinforcement. Sticker rewards may prove a terrific success! A young child that learns from bumping-up against the boundaries might be much less responsive to this method. Searching for approval and limit-testing are both typical ways for a youngster to learn to "go by the guidelines," and many kids require some of each.

What exactly are your household policies? Clear expectations and consistent consequences would be the secrets of success in creating cooperation all through your son's development. An alternative choice to a reward system is to develop a family environment of cooperative expectation from the beginning. Guidelines can include that we all brush our teeth each morning, comb our hair, wash our faces and eat breakfast.

Genuine cooperation entails that I do something for you and you do something for me. Cooperative children are compensated with privileges, like visiting the zoo, receiving a new lunch box or even a brand new toy. Cooperation can also be compensated with simply feeling connected to members of the family.

Sticker reinforcement centers your youngster on the accumulation of "goodies," as opposed to the spirit of cooperation. It may however, provide a quick start to cooperative conduct. Mothers and fathers should be prepared to cope with setting boundaries and motivating behavior through expectation and natural consequences in the end.

A word of warning: Be sure to separate actions from emotions. Moms and dads occasionally have impractical expectations that the youngster feel happy about cooperating. In the event the morning regimen is to put your clothes on before arriving at the breakfast table, your son need not like doing it, but he must accept it.

Reflecting your son's feelings can help him cooperate, instead of "act out" with a meltdown. For example,  "You are angry right this moment, I understand; however, you must still put your clothing on before arriving at the breakfast table. Then we can read our morning tale".

The method here is that there is a natural incentive, organic to the cooperation involved in family life. When the youngster chooses not to cooperate, then this may produce a negative result of not having time for his morning story.

Make room for feelings AND expect your child to do his part in the family. If the consequences are not overly strict and the expectations are fairly realistic to your son's development, cooperation will become a family affair.

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