In the study, the children were given writing and math tasks. The children were offered a reinforcer (reward) of their choice for completing tasks. They also used some strategies to improve motivation, as follows:
- Children were given a choice of what to write with. They were asked something like, “We are going to write letters. Would you like to use a pencil, crayon, or marker?”
- Children were given a choice of where to sit (on the floor or at the table).
- For writing activities, the children were asked to write words or sentences about things they wanted to earn as rewards. As an example, if a child liked to draw, he would be asked to write, “I want to draw a dinosaur.” He would then be allowed to draw a dinosaur. This is known as a “natural reinforcer” (reward). A natural reinforcer is something directly related to the task at hand, as opposed to something unrelated. Something unrelated might be giving a child a piece of candy as a reward for writing letters.
- When possible, the child’s interests were incorporated. An example for a child who likes superheroes would be using superhero fruit snacks for counting and adding. When finished with these math activities, the child would be allowed to eat the fruit snacks.
The results of the study indicated that using these motivational strategies helped children to take less time to begin their work, improve their performance on their work, and reduce disruptive behavior during the work. The blog post is only a very brief overview of the study. For precise and complete results and study information, please read the full article.
Title: Improving motivation for academics in children with autism.
Authors: Koegel, L.K., Singh, A.K., & Koegel, R.L.
Journal: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Year: 2010, Vol. 40, No. 9, Pages: 1057-1066.