The Greatest Reinforcer (No, it’s not chocolate or shopping)

Ramadan kareem to all of our supporters who are celebrating! In spite of it being the first day of fasting for the month of Ramadan in Turkey, we had a great turnout at this morning’s training. By now, we have a great group of consistent attendees who show up for every session ready to learn.

We started today’s session on reinforcement with a review of the functions of behavior. After our cooperative group sessions last week, we thought participants would benefit from a short review. Sarah came up with some great practice questions and we handed out packets of cards to each cooperative group and asked them to sort them into behaviors and non-behaviors. Last week, some participants had trouble understanding why “feeling sad” or “wanting to be alone” are not behaviors. But this week, we were in for a great surprise…every group got them all right! We couldn’t hold back our smiles as we listened to them read out one correct answer after the next. For our team, seeing that the parents and teachers are understanding and applying the content we are teaching them is the greatest reinforcement we could possibly ask for.

The group’s mastery of the material continued throughout the session today. Based on feedback on the last presentation, we made sure to keep today’s presentation interactive and had a number of demonstrations and activities throughout. In one of these activities, we showed everyone three tasks “clap your hands, touch your head, touch your stomach” and instructed one person from each group to leave the room. We then told everyone in the room the order in which their group member was supposed to do these behaviors when they came back into the room “Touch your stomach, clap your hands, touch your head.” For the first round, the teams used reinforcement and encouragement every time their team members did something correctly. We then sent the same people into the hall again and changed the order of the order of these actions. This time, the groups were instructed to use punishment every time their group member got something wrong. We discussed the differences between reinforcement and punishment and the reasons why reinforcement is preferable. These reasons include: avoiding harm to the relationship between the caregiver and child and being able to modify behavior without supervising the child 24/7. Punishment requires you to punish the behavior every time it happens in order to create a behavior change, whereas reinforcement can be given intermittently and still be effective.


We then did some demonstrations of token boards that can be used as reinforcers. We demonstrated by having Sarah give Amal stickers on a token board as she completed a puzzle.


We wrapped up our session by having participants go around and share their favorite reinforcers. Shopping and chocolate were two popular choices. Some parents mentioned that there are other reinforcers that they like, but that they can no longer access because of the realities of life with children. Still, they found chocolate and shopping to be very reinforcing. We all know what our favorite reinforcer is…seeing the families and teachers learn and make progress!


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