Tips on Behavior Management: Reinforcement v. Punishment

Contributed by Oksana Huk, ECLC Ho-Ho-Kus School Psychologist

The terms reinforcement and punishment are often used when discussing behavior management, but their definitions are often misunderstood.

Reinforcement is simply the attempt to increase a behavior; while punishment is the attempt to decrease a behavior. The term positive refers to giving something to someone, and the term negative refers to taking something away.

 When managing difficult behaviors the best approach is to withhold the reinforcement for the undesirable behavior and provide reinforcement for an alternative behavior. This way, a person’s needs can still be met, but by using a socially-desirable behavior.

So let’s take an example from the classroom. Suppose a student is repeatedly calling out in class. We might learn that the reason the student is calling out in class is to gain attention, and every time they gain attention for calling out, they are being positively reinforced for calling out.IMG_1994

If we want to decrease the frequency of calling out, rather than giving something aversive to the student or taking something desirable away, we would no longer provide the desired attention when they call out. If they don’t receive the reinforcement for calling out, they will stop calling out.

Notice that nothing is taken away from the student for calling out, nor is anything aversive given to the student. The behavior is not punished; it is just not reinforced.

Reinforcement is used rather than punishment, because it is always easier to reinforce a new behavior rather than punishing current behaviors! Very important, we also have to teach an alternative behavior. So if the student wants attention, we will teach them to raise their hand and give attention every time they raise their hand and positively reinforce that new behavior. With proper reinforcement, the behavior will continue over time.

  Reinforcement Punishment
Positive Giving something desirable to increase the frequency of a behavior(e.g., increasing the frequency that someone will eat vegetables by giving them dessert after they eat them) Giving something aversive to decrease the frequency of a behavior(e.g., decreasing speeding in the future by giving a speeding ticket)
Negative Taking something aversive away to increase the frequency of a behavior(e.g., increasing the frequency that someone will wear that seatbelt by taking away an annoying sound when they click their belt) Taking something desirable away to decrease the frequency of behavior.(e.g., decreasing fighting between siblings by taking away toys)

Soccer Season Kicks Off!

This week our Chatham school soccer team played its second game of the season on the beautiful municipal turf field behind the school. Our students have a chance to get off the sidelines and play on soccer, basketball and softball teams, against students from other local special-education schools. Our physical education teachers act as coaches, and while everyone likes to win, their goal is to support our students and help them improve their playing skills to the best of their abilities. The sports programs helps build our students’ motor skills and gives them time for informal socializing and relaxation with classmates. Most importantly, like any young person, they love being part of a team, proudly wearing a uniform and earning their varsity letters andIMG_2443 jackets!

New P.R.I.D.E. Center Opens for Adults with Special Needs — New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno Helps Cut the Ribbon!

On. Oct. 1, we officially opened a new P.R.I.D.E. center for our adult clients with special needs, including autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities, and recognized major donors who made the new center possible through their generosity.

The P.R.I.D.E. Center opened following a $450,000 capital campaign to transform a drab warehouse space into a cheery, bright center with activity rooms, a teaching kitchen, a model apartment, and a technology center. The center also includes a dedicated work area where adult clients earn a paycheck by completing contracted work, such as shredding and packaging, for local businesses.

A former ECLC Chatham school staff member, Toby Cooperman, and her husband, Leon, were instrumental in the campaign’s success. They donated a $125,000 challenge matching grant, which inspired others to give. This infusion of funds allowed ECLC to finish the campaign in a short six months.

The grand opening also highlighted October’s “National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” which recognizes the contributions of workers with disabilities. The theme for 2014 is “Expect. Employ. Empower.” With a nod to these three goals, P.R.I.D.E. Director, Dot Libman, said, “With this new center, we are truly able to fulfill what our acronym stands for: Promoting Responsibility, Independence, Decision-making and Employability. At P.R.I.D.E., we always look to empower our clients and look to support their capabilities and nurture their strengths.”

ECLC welcomed elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, for the milestone event. In her remarks, Guadagno applauded ECLC and said she came to the event because she wanted to “see happy people, getting what they need.” She said that after visiting 32 facilities like P.R.I.D.E what she has learned is, “The biggest pain, the biggest nightmare of a parent isn’t that these facilities exist, it’s that there aren’t enough of them. What will happen to my child when he ages out? What will happen to my child when I die? Those are the issues, and you’re dealing with them right here.”

State Senator and former Governor Richard Codey, Morris County Freeholder Deputy Director David Scapicchio, Morris County Freeholder Kathryn DeFillippo and Florham Park Mayor Mark Taylor all joined in the celebration and helped cut the ribbon.

Back to School for Puppy-in-Training

At our Ho-Ho-Kus school, Mandy, a service puppy-in-training, has spent the first few weeks of her final six months there busily working with students. In February 2015, Mandy will go to Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), the group that placed Mandy with Cheryl Avino, the school’s social worker, for training. Everyone is hoping that Mandy passes the rigorous process of becoming a service dog to assist a person with disabilities. In the meantime, Mandy is spending her time helping our students in therapies and aiding them to stay focused on learning. Students look forward to spending time with Mandy. Since 2008, the school’s students have benefited from our unique dog therapy program every day, working with full-time service dog, Patrina.

Students are helping to train Mandy for future placement as a service dog through Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).

Students are helping to train Mandy for future placement as a service dog through Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).

Teachers Get Schooled in Printmaking

Last week, Eileen Foti demonstrated the printing process for a group of teachers and classroom assistants, whose students are participating in the project. Initially, some had trepidations and felt they had no artistic talent. But as she went through the process of chipboard printing, which is the same printing technique she is doing with the students, they gained confidence, relaxed and had a great time. They were able to experience what their students have been doing these past few weeks and were pleased with the results. They gained a new perspective on the challenges their students are facing in this creative process.


Artist-in-Residence Inspires ECLC Students

Students at ECLC of New Jersey’s school for children with special needs in Chatham, N.J., are learning the traditional art of printmaking under the guidance of Eileen Foti, a master print-maker who is at the school this year through a grant from the Artists in Education Consortium.  Image

The project started with a group of students taking a walking tour of the nearby business district to photograph places they love to visit – from the train station to the bank. Now, other students are using those photographs as inspiration!

Over the next few months, students will design prints to be exhibited in an art show and featured in a town-wide directory that will be sold to help fund the school’s art program and also to recognize the community’s longtime support of ECLC.

Since the school moved to Chatham in 1989, teachers have used the community as an extension of the classroom for enhancing students’ daily living skills and independence with weekly visits to the bank, grocery, library, post office, drug store, restaurants and more.

The project will culminate with a public art show on March 6 coordinated by ECLC Art Teacher Mary Ann Walter.

We are excited to have an artist of Foti’s caliber working with students. She is a professor at William Paterson University; the Master Printer of the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions at Rutgers University; and the Interim Education Director at Tamarind Institute. Her work is included in collections all over the world. She has received fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and has had residencies in countries, including Morocco, South Africa, Botswana, Thailand, Croatia and Russia. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg and Crow’s Shadow Institute on the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon. She is on the Board of Directors at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey and also the ArtsGuild NJ.

About the Artists-in-Education Program

The Artists-in-Education Program is a cosponsored project of Arts Horizons, Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania and the New Jersey State Council in the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the ECLC of New Jersey Foundation.