From Stim to Power Reinforcers

We’ve been through a ton of stimming.  Pin wheels, spinning toys, pouring sand, watching water move from container to container were all familiar stims at our house.  

 The only one that really struck fear in our hearts was flipping the pages of magazines.  At first it was only a particular kind of magazine, but later, any would do.  Flipping the pages of a magazine always led to a little tear, then a lot of tearing, which led to trying to fix the pages (by us), which led to hopeless fixes and “help me, please” and then aggressive behavior.   Some of you knew where this was leading at “flipping the pages”.

 This behavior started very early, at age 3.  We were unable to control the behavior.  Instead by the time she was 5, we wiped out magazines, hid books and reams of paper, everything flippable was gone from the house.  We never read a newspaper, never looked up a recipe in a cookbook and kept computer paper high up on the shelf.

Many years, later, that same obsession is a power reinforcer.  The magazine is controlled under specific circumstance, perhaps a haircut or a difficult medical treatment.
The whole premise of Applied Behavior Analysis is working to get what you want. As Joanne Gerenser used to say, “Most people work for the most powerful reinforcer: Money!”

I wish we had understood and used the concept of reinforcement at the beginning and used it to the family’s advantage.  I was too scared to introduce it but braver parents can use those stims and obsessions to shape behaviors and make life smoother by creating the right delivery of rewards.

– Julie

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Our Difflearn blog was created specifically for sharing. Here, we’ll collaborate with trusted professionals and parents to share experiences, concerns, new and exciting products and events and best of all, our collective treasure of information. It is our hope that you will find the information posted here helpful, practical, and interesting and that it will help all of us – especially our children – learn and grow. And this is just the beginning…We hope that professionals and parents who have advice, information or a story to share will contact us and submit thoughts and ideas for blog posts. We intend for this to be a true community and all who are interested in the education of our ASD children are invited to participate.