Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

There's Nothing Like the Power of Positive Reinforcement and Praise

I recently attended a conference about how to work with children and adults with special needs through positive reinforcement and praise. I left there with a renewed sense of confidence that I could raise my son with love without having to raise my hand in anger. It has been my experience since working with this method that my son responds more readily and that my level of frustration has decreased tremendously. Now when Griffin has a tantrum I merely do what is referred to as "planned" ignoring; having a plan behind the act of ignoring as opposed to "plain" ignoring. I make sure that he is safe and that when the tantrum is through that I find a way to praise him for his desired behavior. Plain ignoring is when one does nothing at all and has no plan of action during or after the "undesired" behavior has stopped.

Positive reinforcement and praise not only builds self esteem but it creates loving, nurturing, and trusting relationships within the family structure. Caring relationships is the key to building confidence in a child and with a child of special needs it is absolutely essential that he/she knows that the parent/caregiver can be trusted and that he/she does not have to live in fear of being hit. It can be argued whether a child with autism understands what a spanking means but why take the chance? Why hurt a child when there are much more effective means of getting the desired behavior by being positive and caring?

Yes, caring takes time, it takes patience, caring means helping and caring is fragile but isn't your child worth it? Isn't that what parenting, good parenting is all about? Caring is part of a chain of events: we care, they trust us, they learn to trust themselves, their confidence thus their behavior improves significantly, and last but not least of all, they learn to care for others.

Sometimes all it takes is just a few moments to back off and away from a frustrating situation that is about to become inflammitory. Taking a few deep breaths and reassesing the problem at hand can be the key to ultimate success. Reinforcement is not "unfair" nor does it spoil a child who needs it. The beauty of it is that reinforcers get back what they give. Imagine how much love and affection that can be created just by sharing a positive attitude.

The more that positive reinforcement and praise is applied the more that the "problem time" is reduced because naturally we all love to be loved and respond accordingly. Give it a try and you might just see that the challenges that you face are simply and yes, sometimes easily solved. Provide for your child choices that are fun and exciting, try engaging activities, start small, take baby steps if need be, but ultimately you will find that there is no better feeling than a sense of accomplishment and pride in being a loving parent.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

we have found positive reinforcement to be the most effective in getting our two oldest boys to do what is asked of them. They are 3 and 4, and our 3 yr old is more severe in his ASD than the 4 yr old.
They are both toilet trained now - although my 3 yr old has a fixation with peeing in containers (like pop cans).