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Real-World Reinforcers and the Instructors who Love Them

My newest athlete with autism is all about the cats. Loves cats. Can’t get enough cats. So. Down. With. Cats.

During our first session while performing my PAC Profile eval, he asked me if I had any pets. Score. I have FIVE. Yes, five cats about which to speak while figuring out if this young man can squat, push throw, and step over hurdles.

The cat thing was a gift, and I had every intention of using it to full potential. I didn’t know if “Fred” enjoyed our exercises activities. I don’t know that Sandbell and medicine ball tosses are his new favorite thing ever, but I got the notion that I could work the feline-focus into our next session. I spent some time gathering pictures and videos of my kitty brood here at home, and offered Fred a nice little contingency:

3 completed exercises = Looking at 1 cat picture on my iPhone + I will answer any questions about that cat

Oh how it worked. Because the contingency, or if-then relationship was clear and was also respected by both myself and Fred. ┬áThe videos counted as an extra bonus. More exercise time and he’d get to see my oddly-behaved Gracie do oddly behaved things on video.

The coolest part of this whole Premack Principle (If-Then) relationship is that it creates a good scenario for exercise becoming not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable. Setting up the environment for success, meaning that the activities are appropriate for skill level, the instructions clear, and the behavior support helpful, the foundation can be set for long term healthy living.



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