The Role of Reinforcement for Language Development

Reinforcement refers to anything that increases the likelihood that a response will occur. It increases or strengthens the behavior. For example, reinforcement might involve presenting praise (the reinforce) immediately after a child puts away her toys (the response).By reinforcing the desired behavior with praise, the girl will be more likely to perform the same actions again.

Reinforcement is used to help increase the probability that a specific behavior will occur with the delivery of a stimulus/item immediately after a response/behavior is exhibited. The use of reinforcement procedures have been used with typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons etc.

There are two types of reinforcement: positive and negative. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Also, negative reinforcement is often confused with punishment.

  • Positive Reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement is a very powerful and effective tool to help shape and change behavior. Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating item to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.

The following are some examples of positive reinforcement:

  • The mother gives her son candy for cleaning up his toys.
  • The little girl receives gift for every A she earns on her report card.
  • Negative Reinforcement:

Negative reinforcement is when a certain stimulus/item is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. The likelihood of the particular behavior occurring again in the future is increased because of removing/avoiding the negative stimuli.

Negative reinforcement should not be thought of as a punishment procedure. With negative reinforcement, you are increasing a behavior, whereas with punishment, you are decreasing a behavior.

The following are some examples of negative reinforcement:

  • Lisa always complains of a headache when it is time to start doing her homework. Her parents allow her to go to bed without doing her homework.
  • Using the PECS “NO” Picture

Paul is being taught to communicate using pictures. He is learning that when he gives a “NO” picture to his teacher in response to something he doesn’t like being offered to him, the teacher will then remove the unwanted object from his view. He is learning really fast and is now using his “NO” picture every time he doesn’t want something that is presented to him.

  • For example, car manufacturers use the principles of negative reinforcement in their seat belt systems, which go “beep, beep, beep” until you fasten your seat-belt. The annoying sound stops when you exhibit the desired behavior, increasing the likelihood that you will buckle up in the future.When thinking about reinforcement, always remember that the end result is to try to increase the behavior, whereas punishment procedures are used to decrease behavior. For positive reinforcement, try to think of it as adding something positive in order to increase a response. For negative reinforcement, try to think of it as taking something negative away in order to increase a response. Reinforcement helps the child to achieve the particular behavior. So always reinforce the child for their achievements even if it’s small.

 

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