It may become necessary for children with disabilities to have modifications in the typical classroom management system based upon their unique needs. In the next few articles, we will look at some of the various techniques which have proven to be successful in working with all children but especially children with disabilities.
In the first article of this series, some of the key concepts of behavior modification were discussed. These included extinction, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment. With this article, we will examine some principles of reinforcement which must be employed with any behavior change according to the behaviorists.
The principles of reinforcement include:
- Reinforcement must be dependent on the manifestation of the appropriate behavior (that is, if you do not see the behavior you can not reinforce the behavior).
- The appropriate behavior must be reinforced immediately (especially in the initial stages when attempting to establish new behaviors).
- During the initial stages of the behavior change the appropriate behavior must be reinforced each time it is exhibited. (This is necessary to allow the behavior to become established in the child's behavior patterns).
- When a newly acquired behavior reaches a satisfactory frequency level, it should be reinforced intermittently. (By changing the reinforcement schedule to a variable basis, the child is more apt to continue the desirable behavior.)
- Social reinforcements must always be applied with tangible reinforcements. (As the behavior process continues, tangible reinforcements are removed but social reinforcements always remain in place.)
The schedules of reinforcement include fixed ratio (number of successful events occurring), variable ratio, fixed interval (amount of time between successful behaviors) and variable interval. Behavior must be established before the practitioner changes from a fixed to a variable schedule of reinforcement.
Some other topics of interest in behavior modification include:
- Behavior tends to get worse before it gets better.
- Premack Principle AKA "Grandma's Rule" or "you must eat all your vegetables before you get dessert". This is the concept that high probability behaviors (having dessert) can act as a reinforcement to low probability behaviors (eating vegetables).
- Generalization refers to the process by which a behavior reinforced in the presence of one stimulus will again occur in the presence of another. This is an important element of learning. An example would be a baby learns the term "dog" and for a time says all four legged animals are dogs.
- Discrimination discusses the idea that people behave differently in various situations. For example most people behave differently in church than they do at a party.
In the next few articles we will look at other essential models of behavior management.