differential reinforcement

ABA Therapy Insight: Differential Reinforcement, Explained

Differential reinforcement is a technique use by our Akron ABA therapy team to reinforce the behavior we want to see while not reinforcing the behavior we want to extinguish. It works well for children on the autism spectrum when applied appropriately and consistently, but it can work well for people of all ages and ability in other ways too.

For instance, let’s say a teacher in an elementary school classroom wants the students to stop shouting out the answers and raise their hands instead. She could admonish every student who calls out, or she might be more effective by not providing those who do with any attention at all. Meanwhile, she reinforces the preferred behavior of raising your hand before speaking by only calling on/praising those students who do so (i.e., “Nice job raising your hand, Tyrone. What’s your answer?”).

A teacher who uses this technique is essentially using the differential reinforcement method that we use in ABA therapy.