The ABA team shares some helpful tips on how to condition reinforcers for your child.
A common concern with families is how to expand their kids interests. Expanding interests is important for people to connect with other’s interests, increase options when their specific interest is unavailable, and making friends.
A strategy to use when trying to condition new reinforcers or activities is, while they are engaging in their preferred activity, have a new activity going on at the same time. Consider a kid whose only interest is iPad. They love their iPad and don’t perceive to have any other interest than iPad. While they are engaging with iPad, surround the environment with other items (bubbles, light up toys, books, games, etc.). While they are engaging in iPad, the adult will simultaneously be engaging with these other items. The child may or may not engage in those other activities. Every time they are engaging with the iPad, have these other activities present in the environment. The key here is to not give up. The more they are exposed to other activities, the higher likelihood they are to engage in them. There will be a scenario in which they reach for, look at, point to, or show any indication of awareness of the other activity, that is a sign of a possible new interest occurring.
So where do I start?
- Pick out a time of the day that suits you and the child. This could be anywhere between 5-30 minutes. Start small and build up over time.
- Pick a new activity you think your child may have an interest in.
- While the child engages in their preferred activity, the adult will engage with this new activity.
- Once the set duration has ended, remove new item from environment. Remember there is not an expectation of the child to engage or play with the new item.
- Keep trying and have fun!
While this process may feel like it takes a long a time and a lot of effort, expanding interests will enrich the child’s (and your!) life in so many ways. Trust the process.