Opinion, Editorial and the occasional Freudian slip

Take a bite of this… 

Reinforcement, that much maligned concept that is synonymous with ABA. Let’s look at this bad word that draws so much flak in the context of autism and ABA and understand its complexity, its simplicity, and its role in our lives. To make this an unbiased discussion let’s talk about the concept of reinforcement in our context.

We have often spoken in workshops about reinforcement with the simple example of “what if you wore a blue dress today and many people told you that blue looks good on you, you look great, you should wear blue more often. What are the chances that you will buy a blue dress the next time you go shopping? It may not even be a very conscious choice, but you just veer towards that color” Like I said this is a very simplistic view of reinforcement and not technically accurate probably. But it is real.

We all work and have jobs. The only jobs that have no retirement is that of parenting and I ain’t going to talk about that, not for now anyway. 

For those of us who are in the workforce, our jobs give us out routines, our money and take up a large part of the hours in a week. So, what drives us to do this day after day, week after week, for years? What is your reinforcement? 

“I love my job”

“The pay” 

“I have some great friends there”

“Salary is meh but there is so much freedom to experiment”

Or maybe

“The environment is very encouraging”

These and many more factors can be your reinforcement that make you love your current job and motivate you to work hard, even if it takes up your whole day. 

Notice that the reinforcers are not always monetary. We always think of that as the biggest reasons why we hold the jobs we do. Other factors like friends, mental stimulation, freedom to express van also be great motivators. 

Why do you remain in a job if the pay is not great? Maybe the factors more relevant to you are the freedom to express and innovate, or the perks like an all-expenses paid conference. I would certainly take on that offer!

Why do people quit jobs, then?

“The salary was not keeping pace with the amount of work I had to do.”

“I realized that this subject is not my passion”

“I feel like I am in a rut”

“There is no space to grow beyond this”

“Everyone I know has left and it’s not the same anymore”

“So, what changed here? The reinforcing contingencies don’t exist anymore”

That results in a change in your behavior.

Behavior goes where reinforcement flows! 

Sidenote: While all this is great in theory, and some of us may be the world’s best therapist or so we’d like to think, we have the kids dancing to our tunes, their excitement on seeing us day after day and the willingness to learn with us, clearly, we have our reinforcement bang on! But do we have this concept of reinforcement right outside of the clinical setting? With other people, with friends and family? Basically, anyone other than the children we work with?  

If you want to say something nice to somebody, do it today, because let’s be honest, hitting the ‘like’ button on Facebook, is something I don’t like! Everyone deserves reinforcement, everyone likes reinforcement, so why not be generous with it and spread some genuine happiness, why don’t ya? 

Food for thought.