G-1: Use positive and negative reinforcement procedures to strengthen behavior ©

Important note: Fictionalized clients are used to demonstrate the skill items in the second half of the task list, sections F-I. They make the most sense when read in order. Please remember that there is not substitute for real-life supervision and consultation. Get your case-specific advice from professionals – not from the internet! These examples are just that – examples of how behavior analytic skills might be applied.


Case example: Jada is an elementary school student. She experiences Level 3 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Level 3 is the severity level of Autism which is characterized by “requiring very substantial support.” Jada has also been diagnosed with a severe Intellectual Disability (ID). Jada has just transferred to a private school for individuals with global needs. She loves all kinds of play and messy activities, such as finger paint and water play. She also enjoys swinging on the playground, eating popcorn, and watching Disney movies. She loves to be read to, and laughs when staff make dramatic gestures while reading picture books. Jada does not use any vocal speech. She makes noises sometimes, such as humming. Jada engages in motor stimming, including upper body tensing and flapping her arms. Jada engages in severe challenging behavior, including self injury (hand to head and head to surface) and aggression (including hitting and biting). Jada has a mom, dad, and older brother living together in one home. Jada’s family has advocated for her to attend a private program, and they are excited for her to get high quality services. Jada’s new behavior analyst is Dr. Brown-Davis, who is a BCBA-D employed by the private program.

Example of Item G-1: Dr. Brown-Davis prioritizes teaching Jada to ask for things she wants, as well as the removal of things she does not like. This communication behavior (functional communication response [FCR]) is selected as the functionally equivalent replacement behavior for Jada’s dangerous problem behaviors. Asking for things she wants meets the access function of her behavior and results in positive reinforcement. Asking for things to be removed/stopped meets the escape function of her behavior and results in negative reinforcement.


Case example: Donovan is a high school student. He has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). He attends a public school and has been placed in a support program for students with social/emotional/behavioral needs. Donovan enjoys playing video games and drawing in his sketchbook. He would like to be a welder when he is an adult. Academic achievement and attendance have been challenges for Donovan historically, and he is currently not on track to graduate with his peers due to missed work and failing grades in several classes. Donovan’s team has identified challenges including frequent non-attendance to school, walking the halls during class times, non-attendance at expected guidance appointments, and non-completion of classwork. Donovan lives with his mother and older brother. Donovan’s mother is concerned about her son’s school challenges and expresses frustration about his “lack of commitment” to his education. She wants Donovan to understand how important it is to graduate from high school. Donovan’s behavior analyst is Ms. Bailey, who has just started contracting with Donovan’s school district through the agency she works for.

Example of Item G-1: Ms. Bailey provides behavior specific praise (positive reinforcement) when Donovan engages in behaviors that are considered “appropriate” in the classroom. An example of this is when Ms. Bailey says “Donovan, great job raising your hand before talking. I really appreciate it!” Donovan begins raising his hand more frequently after Ms. Bailey praises him for doing so.

Ms. Bailey is focused on encouraging Donovan to ask for breaks (negative reinforcement) when he gets overwhelmed with work instead of pushing over his desk and walking out of the room. As soon as Donovan says “I need to take a break from work”, Ms. Bailey allows Donovan to take a 5 minute work break. Donovan begins asking for breaks instead of pushing furniture and leaving the room.

%d bloggers like this: