The Reward System: A Behavior Modification Technique for Autism


The behavior of Autistic children can be a very challenging thing to handle. From temper tantrums, to self-injury, to repetitive, destructive behavior, parents often don’t know where to turn to for behavior modification techniques. When “No!” doesn’t work, and time outs are ineffective, it almost seems as though it’s a lost cause. Behavior Modification Therapy focuses on these outbursts and trains the Autistic mind to relate good behavior with good feelings.

In the shoes of an Autistic Child…

If every day you went to work, did your 8 hours, and didn’t get paid, would you continue to do go to work? If you started a new diet, and it claimed that maybe someday you would be healthy, would you continue to do it? Life is all about the reward system: if you do something correctly, then you receive a reward. What the reward might be is relative to the situation, but if you seek value in that reward, you’re sure to do what is required in order to get it.

If you went to work late everyday, sat around and did nothing and still collected a paycheck, would you continue to go to work? If you were on a diet that allowed you to eat as much candy as you wanted, but promised that you’d lose weight rapidly, would you remain on the diet? Probably. Life is also about consequences. If your reward isn’t taken away when you do something against policy, then you never learn right from wrong. How are you to know that going to work late is wrong, or that eating candy is bad, if you’re not given a consequence to your action?

You Need To Say Exactly What You Want To Get Exactly What You Want

For this to be a structured approach, it’s important that you identify three main ideas to the new method:
1) What exact behavior are you looking for from the child.
2) How long do you wish for the child to apply this behavior?
3) Under what circumstances should the behavior be preformed.

For example, if you are having an issue with your child throwing a temper tantrum every time you try to put their shoes on, this can surely become a great hassle. In this situation, the behavior you’re looking for might be to calmly sit on the sofa, and allow his/her shoes to be put on. TheĀ  duration of the action may be for 2 minutes or until the shoes are on and tied. The circumstances would be when it’s time to go outside and you have to wear shoes. The goal here would be for the child to learn the idea that “When it’s time to go outside and put on shoes, I have to sit on the sofa for 2 minutes until my shoes are tied”.

Creating a reward system and sticking to it

Why should your child put their shoes on? Of course it prevents mommy and daddy from going nuts from all of the screaming, but what does the child get out of the deal? If there’s no reason or reward for them to do it, then why in the world should they?

It is our own natural defense mechanism to avoid pain and gravitate to good. If you don’t know the difference, then how do you know which direction to go? Behavioral Modification creates a reward system for desired behavior, and enables the child to create healthy behavioral patterns. If they do the right thing, they receive a reward. Whether it be a hug, a high five, 5 minutes to play a video game, the key is to make the reward be something that the child wants. If you try giving a child who doesn’t like ice cream and ice cream cone, that’s not considered a reward.

In our shoe example, let’s assume that the child loves hugs and sandboxes.In this case, we may want the child to think “When it’s time to go outside and put on shoes, I have to sit on the sofa for 2 minutes until my shoes are tied, and then I get to go outside and play in the sandbox and get a big hug from Mommy”.

You Might Need a Little Help…

Unless you have your PhD in Behavioral Health hanging in your office, you probably aren’t completely sure on where to begin. There are plenty of specialists available who can help get you and your family on the right track to behavioral modification. True to form, you as the parent should keep your eye on the reward:

A happier, healthier child. This is probably above all, the best reward we could offer.


  1. says

    i have an autistic child, he is 6 years. is it necessary that I do to him the test of hair for heavy metals.
    If the nivel of heavy metals is high, will the chelation therapy help him? or if I discover that the nivel of heavy metals is high, What do you suggest me? Please answer me. Please help me?
    because some doctors say that heavy metals in the autistics children go away by themselves.
    help! Rona

  2. says

    Hi Rona,

    I am a Board Certified Behavior Analst (BCBA) so I am no expert on heavy metals and chelation. I can say though that Applied Behaivor Analysis (ABA) therapy, which is all about modifying behavior, is an effective treatment for children with Autism. While there is no cure for Autism, with effective intensive treatment, significant gains can be made. One of the great things about ABA is that it is based on science and has been around for a while. We know that using rewards following behavior will increase behavior, just as said above. ABA will help change behavior, but it won’t change the level of metals in a person’s body. I would suggest consulting with your doctor and looking at both sides of the coin. There are many potential side effects with chelation. You just have to whey the pros and cons and make the decision that you feel is best for your child and your family. I would also look into research that has been published on chelation and children with Autism. I am not sure if this helps or not, but I hope that you find the answers to your questions. Best of luck!


  3. says

    please write me the exact vitamine b that i should give to my child, he is six years old. or tell me any other vitamine that I should give to him? And the wright tablets of vitamins.

  4. admin says

    Hi Figo, again each child is different but since you are asking for it, based on experiences most of them need a B Complex for sure, B6, Folic acid and B12 but the dosage is normally half of the adult version. Why don’t you contact us for consultative services?

  5. admin says

    Hi Figo, this is a reply for your Qs on heavy metals and the testing. Ideally, it is best to look for general pattern of heavy metal exposure and I am not talking about the recent exposure which is tested best by serum (blood). Once you found out then you could either do a Liver Flush, probiotic or glutathione therapy etc. We (DAN physicians) have never heard of heavy metals in autistic children go away by itself???

  6. says

    hi, i want to do a question about my autistic son. he is 6 years old. he can read almost every thing and every word. But recently I’m very worried about him. because he reads every thing that there is behind the TV or, the stamps of the clothes and he repeats them constantly and most of the time he laughs with what he reads. For example, he always reads “made in China, Made in Italy Made in Taiwan, etc. And laugh with them. Please can you tell me what happens this? Because he doesn’t hear me bu reads only them. What should I do? Here in my country, Albania, no one can explain this.

  7. says

    I thank you about the prescription about the vitamin b and folic acid, but please Admin tell me B6… B12… Complex……mg? And Acid Folic, how mg? My child is 6 years old.

    Thank you very much.

  8. says

    Melisa, I thank you about the information, but what can you tell me about PCA-RX? Is it available for chelation?

  9. says

    I’m very worried about my 6 years old son, because he touches his genital organ very often. Sometimes with a big force, or he makes it very big. Sometimes he tries ti touch other people withit. Please what do you advice me? What should I do? What worries him? Help me!

  10. admin says

    Hi Figo, you have wrote to me as comments for several occasions on this blog. Please if you need help to organize healthcare for your child, why don’t you contact us directly instead of randomly giving your son medicine or therapy to take and experiment. Each child is different although the the biomedical approaches are general. Call us at +1-847-854-8052 or email my assistant at

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