In 2018, the CDC reported that as many as 1 in 59 children identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Boys are four times more likely detected. And 31% of children with autism found to have an intellectual disability (Autism Facts and Figures, 2018). Students found eligible for special education services experience. Students with the autism spectrum are particularly prone to face challenges in mastering skills necessary to be productive in the classroom. There is a common misconception that students on the high-functioning end of the spectrum tend to have a much easier time excelling in class and with life skills. In reality, high-functioning autistic individuals also encounter daily challenges. And it may interfere with classroom productivity including poor executive functioning skills, trouble following verbal directions, and struggles with task-transitioning (Rudy, L.J., 2018). According to the study, students on the autism spectrum exhibited much variation in academic success. And each child had varying areas of strengths and weaknesses (Keen, D., Ridley, G.,Webster, A., 2015).
The use of positive reinforcement is an effective strategy. And it used as a preventative approach to reduce problem behaviors in the school setting. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) are research-based strategies. They used to increase academic achievement and improve on-task behaviors (Lynch, M., 2017). The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of a positive reinforcement intervention on appropriate behaviors. It increase classwork completion rates for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
There has limited research conducted on the topic of academic achievement in students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autistic students with lower IQs are more prone to overlooked in research. Although schools have prioritized this issue in recent years, the number of studies completed on this topic are not an accurate representation of the ASD population and more research needed (Keen, D., Ridley, G., Webster, A., 2015).
Students placed within a special education setting have generally qualified due to an academic impact. California education code (5 CCR § 3030), states that one of the determining factors for special education eligibility is an existing adverse effect on the student’s educational performance. Some of the primary areas that ASD students struggle with involves communication and social interaction (Areas of Difficulty, 2019). Often these are important tools necessary to be successful in the classroom and complete classwork.
Positive reinforcement is a research-based strategy used as an effective treatment intervention. Lynch (2017), asserts that providing positive feedback is a much more potent reinforcer used to shape positive behavior as compared to the use of punishments, such as detention. It may have an adverse or temporary effect. Charlop-Christy & Haymes (1998) researched the effects of utilizing items of obsession such as tokens. It can reinforce task productivity for ASD students. They found that items of obsession utilized as tokens produced higher rates of productivity than regular tokens and undesired behaviors minimized as a result. Another study compared the effects of social praise and tangible reinforcers. It increase task engagement and it concluded that both reinforcer conditions were successful though tangible items tend to produce elevated rates of stereotypic behaviors (Kang, , M., Rojeski, L., Blenden, K., Xu, Z., Davis, T., Sigafoos, J., & Lancioni, G., 2013).
Statement of the Problem
The problem is that Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often face extra challenges in completing their classwork as compared to their neurotypical peers. One third of ASD students are non-verbal and they often experience comorbid conditions such as Intellectual Disabilities which can impact their daily function (Autism Facts and Figures, 2018).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of delivering reinforcement with tangible objects and motivating activities for expected classroom behaviors, to increase productivity levels for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
1. What are the factors involved that lead ASD students to struggle with classroom productivity?
2. What are the most salient factors involved in student success?
3. What types of reinforcement do ASD students have the greatest response to?
The primary assumption made by this study was that participating students were on the autism spectrum. The secondary assumption was that the students selected for this study were capable of performing their special education grade-level material. The next assumption was that the participating students’ classwork productivity levels would recorded by their teachers. The last assumption is that the reinforcer will remain effective for the duration of the entire experiment.
Context of the Study
This study will examine the outcomes of implementing a positive reinforcement research-based intervention on students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study will use quantitative methods to establish whether using preferred items and activities used to motivate on-task behavior from students will produce an increase in classwork productivity levels. This study will involve the participation of 1 special education teacher, 1 paraeducator, and 4 middle-school ASD students (as subjects) attending special education classes in Ventura County, California to check the effectiveness of various reinforcers.
Limitations and Delimitations
The following considered to be limiting factors and should considered with caution when generalizing results: a small sample size, participants all attended one school, students were all enrolled in a special education program, teachers determine classwork assignments and the preferred tasks to completed, variability in effect of the reinforcer strength on individual students, and students becoming too dependent on reinforcement to complete classwork after the treatment has removed. An extra restricting factor included a lack of implementing a second intervention phase to verify treatment reliability.
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