ABA 101: What’s Your Motivation?

March 2, 2018 - Sarah Trotter, RBT

ABA 101: What’s Your Motivation?

By Sarah Trotter, Registered Behavior Technician

Motivation is essential in Applied Behavior Analysis! We follow our clients’ natural interests (for example: activities, toys, food and attention) as motivation to better help them accomplish difficult tasks. Once we know what they are motivated for, we can use it as reinforcement after they have completed the task. This helps reinforce the positive behavior and lets him or her know they have done a great job! Reinforcing accomplishments will increase the likelihood of that positive response happening again.

Our kids’ interests change all the time, so we offer many different types of reinforcement to keep them engaged, as well as varying the size of the reinforcement and the time in which they engage with the reinforcement.

To determine just the right reinforcer, it is important to follow the child’s motivation and to also remember that the effectiveness of reinforcements can be changed based on DISC:

  • Deprivation of the reinforcer –Deprivation occurs when clients have had limited access to their reinforcers.  For example, when a client hasn’t had access to a preferred toy for a period of time, they will be more likely to want to interact with that toy.  This state of deprivation may increase the value of that toy as a reinforcer.
  • Immediacy of the reinforcer – This refers to how quickly the reinforcer can be given, for example a child is more likely to work for a reinforcer that they will receive immediately than one that they have to wait a few hours or days to receive.
  • Size of the reinforcer –  If a reinforcer is too small or the amount of time given with the reinforcer is too short, the child may not be motivated enough to complete a task asked of them. However if the reinforcement is too big or the time with it is too long, the child may become unmotivated for that item in the future. Size of reinforcement can be tricky.
  • Contingency – Contingency means the client must complete an expected task in order to receive reinforcement.  If they do not complete the task, they will not receive the reinforcement.  This is important, because if the client learns they can gain reinforcement without completing their tasks, they will be less likely to engage in those tasks in the future.

To learn more about finding our kids’ favorite interests and how to reinforce positive behaviors, click here to watch our training video.

You can also download a PDF about the ABC’s of ABA on our “Resources” page.

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March 2, 2018, Sarah Trotter, RBT

One thought on “ABA 101: What’s Your Motivation?”

  1. hello for an 11 year old teenager who has a few favorite items as you can do good teaching sessions in the natural environment? Of course, several conditions have already been tried for new activities, as it is an adolescent it is difficult to find suitable activities and it is more difficult to condition new preferences because they lack valuable objects (reinforcements)
    Thank you for your time

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