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Dear Expert,
I have been told that it’s a bad idea to use food as a tool for reinforcing good behavior. Can you recommend some easy and effective ways to reinforce behavior without using food?

Thanks for the great question! A positive reinforcer may be used to help shape a certain desired behavior. Positive reinforcers can help someone learn behaviors necessary to be successful in work, residential or social environments. For example, a student’s behavior goal may be to increase the amount of time he stays on-task in class. Positive reinforcers would be used as a reward for improving over a period of time.

Positive reinforcers include any actions, consequences, or rewards that are provided to a person and cause an increase in desired behavior. They may include rewards and privileges that people like and enjoy. For example, a student may earn physical rewards such as school supplies, healthy snacks, or choice of free-time activities.

When choosing a positive reinforcer, it is important for the team to know the person well. If possible, it can be helpful to encourage a person to help choose the type of positive reinforcers he or she would like to earn. These can include:

  • Choices of activities;
  • Compliments and recognition;
  • Public praise, or positive notes;
  • Pats on the back, smiles, hand-shakes, and high-fives;

– This question was answered by Victoria Droit-Blair, M.Ed., Assistant Clinical Director


Dear Expert,
What is assistive technology?

Thank you for asking! The Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (ATA) defines assistive technology devices and assistive technology services as follows:

  • Assistive technology devices: any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
  • Assistive technology services: any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.

Examples of assistive technology devices include:

  1. A keyboard with large keys for individuals with fine motor challenges
  2. A voice output device for individuals with speech challenges
  3. A special mouse for people with limited hand function
  4. A wheelchair or a walker for mobility
  5. Screen magnification software for people with low vision
  6. A switch to turn on electrical appliances or lights

Examples of assistive technology services include:

  1. The evaluation of the needs of an individual with a disability
  2. Purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices
  3. Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or replacing of assistive technology devices
  4. Coordination with other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices
  5. Training on assistive devices

Assistive technology enables people with disabilities to perform tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. These can include accomplishing daily living tasks, work or recreational tasks, communication or educational tasks.  With the use of assistive technology, quality of life can be enhanced through increased independence.

– This question was answered by Dr. Caryn Wetcher, Psy.D., Director of Training

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