Rewards : A Foundation : Online And Home Based Therapy

Reinforcement or Rewards are the building blocks and play a vital role in intensive behavioural interventions. It falls under the purview of Discrete Trial. Let's delve deeper into each of these.

One of the basic tools used in intensive behavioural interventions is the "Discrete Trial" made out of several distinct components.

It begins with the SD, Discriminative Stimulus. The therapist gives the instruction to the child and waits for the child to respond or provides help in the form of a prompt if needed. Finally once the child has responded, the child is given a reinforcement in the form of a reward for a correct response or a correction for an incorrect response. Once one discrete trial is completed, after a brief pause, the therapist then moves to the next discrete trial.

A discrete trial is made up of the following 3 stages or components :-

  1. The SD, Discriminative Stimulus
  2. A Response or a Prompt
  3. Reinforcement (Reward) or Correction

Let's understand each of these components in detail :-

  1. SD:

    It is delivered in the form of an instruction from the therapist to the child. It can be in any of the below formats :-

    • Verbal Instruction
    • A Picture
    • A Toy or
    • A Swing

    A good SD must follow several guidelines to be effective.

    Features of SD :-

    • Clear and Consistent
    • Free of Extraneous Information
    • Loud and Clear - It should be delivered by the therapist in a voice slightly louder than the normal tone

    Differently worded SD's can be confusing in early training e.g Therapist giving the instruction "Touch your Nose" followed by "Where is your Nose" can lead to confusion at an early training stage.

  2. Now let's move the next step i.e Prompting or waiting for a response from the child.

  3. A Response or a Prompt:
    • This would depend on the task type.
    • When beginning to teach a new task, the therapist must immediately prompt after giving the SD.
    • Post which there should be repetitions of the same SD to ensure that the child has learnt.
    • Also while giving the SD, the therapist should be clear in mind on when to give the prompt.
    • In case of a new SD, therapist should immediately prompt.
    • In case of a repetitive SD, the therapist should wait for the child to respond.

  4. Delving deeper, let's understand the 3rd stage of the "Discrete Trial".

  5. Reinforcement or Correction:
    • Once an SD has been given, the child responds in one or two ways
    • Either the child responds correctly and reinforcement is delivered
    • Or the child responds incorrectly and a corrective procedure is applied

    Reinforcement is also known as the reward. While providing reinforcement to the child, there are several points to keep in mind in order to maintain its effectiveness. These encompass :-

    Principles of Reinforcement:

    • 1st principal - Reinforcement should immediately be given after a correct response
    • Reinforcement should be given irrespective of whether the child responds independently or with the help of a prompt
    • 2nd principal - Enthusiasm - Reinforcement should be delivered enthusiastically to the child. If the therapist is enthused, the child will enjoy the reinforcement more which will lead to a better learning
    • 3rd principal - Reinforcement should be Varied - If the same reward is repeated all the time, it will lose its effectiveness

    Summing up the three principles of Reinforcement (Reward) -

    • Effective reinforcement is best achieved if delivered immediately after the correct response and
    • Delivered in an enthusiastic and involved manner
    • Also if the reward is varied and not monotonous
    • Now let's also understand, how should a therapist react if the child delivers incorrect response. There are 2 approaches to it :-
      • 1st approach - Informational "NO" - The traditional approach is to use an informational "No" in a neutral tone of voice. The 'no' here isn't given with the intent of punishing the child but to inform the child that it's an incorrect response. Then therapists gives the same SD again to the child to ensure the learning cycle is completed
      • 2nd approach - Pause - If the child delivers an incorrect response, the therapist takes a pause rather than saying a "No". After the pause, the therapist gives the same SD to the child followed by an immediate prompt to ensure the child gives a correct response which is followed by a reward (reinforcement) to motivate the child.
    • E.g If the therapist gives the SD, "Thumbs up" and if the child delivers an incorrect response then after a pause the therapist will again give the same SD, "Thumbs Up" followed by an immediate prompt to ensure that the child is able to deliver a correct response of "Thumbs up" and this is followed by a reward (reinforcement) to motivate the child.