Friday, April 22, 2011

Motivation or Coincidence?

Is it a coincidence that my son has put together three good weeks of school since we have been using element playing cards as incentive?

Yesterday, when Kai came home from school on this holiday-shortened week, we found out that he had again been honored as Student of the Week. That makes it twice in the past three weeks.

His good day yesterday earned him four more element cards – lead, tin, iron, and mercury. At this rate, we will run out of cards before the end of the school year.

Of course, I am thrilled that he is doing so well. But, the analytical side of me questions why the change compared with the previous two months when he seemed to have angry outbursts at school on a daily basis.

Is the motivation of earning the element cards really keeping his behavior in check? That would imply that even though so many of his outbursts seem impulsive, Kai actually could control his behavior if he really wanted to. I’d love for that to be the case, but I’m somewhat skeptical.

I am more inclined to believe that this period of good behavior has coincided with a time where there have been no unexpected changes at school to throw Kai off. Oftentimes, his school incidents occur when there is some divergence from the usual routine – a new TA, a special program, lining up in a different order. We haven’t heard of anything like that recently, so it may be that this has just been a less stressful time for him in that respect.

Perhaps there is another reason. Although we have made no changes recently, maybe his body is responding well to the biomedical treatments we are doing.

Whatever the case, I wish I could definitively identify the reason behind the positive change so that we would know what we are doing right, if anything.

But, in the absence of knowing for sure, we will keep our positive reinforcement program going for as long as it might be working. And so, if any of you are scientists, could you please discover a few more elements before we run out of cards? Thank you.


  1. gotta love good incentives!!!! here's to another good week!! =)
    I'm a new follower, come say hi & check out my giveaways for Autistic parents (one up now and another coming soon) @

  2. Thanks for visiting my site and commenting. I'll be sure to visit yours as well a little later. (Saturdays are crazy busy around here!)

  3. Hello, I'm also a new follower. I have a 3.5 yo and I somewhat related to your post. My son seems to be responding well to rewards. It is mainly gummy bears (which are really his 2/day vitamins... hehe) He doesn't care much about stickers, will have to start looking into what motivates him. Anyways, I also think my son strives better when things run smoothly and according to "schedule". He goes thru very good period of times where he's responding and doing all his therapies without fussing, but once we change his immediate goals and make changes in language, etc, that's when he starts struggling.

  4. Hi Karla,
    We did a lot of ABA with our son from the time he was diagnosed at age 2 until he was 5 or so. In that time, we used a lot of rewards and positive reinforcement. We thought it worked well. We always tried to fade out the reward once he was able to do the task well. That is nice that your son's reward is the gummy bears which he would need to take anyway. :)

  5. I always do the same thing when things are going's so great and you're so happy, but also wanting to sleuth out what might be the reason. Mostly so you can make sure to keep doing it! But there are so many variable with our kids, as you've identified. I can most definitely trace irritability back to changes in my daughter's routine, so a good mood might be because of stability. But I wouldn't underestimate the power of those element cards!!

  6. Lynn, yes, when everything is going well, don't you just wish that things will never change, that everything will stay stable forever? Alas, it never works out that way for too long, does it? My son's school's schedule will be all out of whack for Earth Week this week so we'll see how powerful these element cards really are!


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