Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Beginning

After many years of grieving, my husband and I arrived at "Acceptance" (what we call "Reality"). The boys were getting bigger and the behaviors seemed to be increasing. We knew we had to do something. If for nothing else but survival. We determined that our overall goal was not behavior-based, but one of independence. We wrote our goal; For the boys to be as happy and as independent as they could possibly be. As we moved forward, we kept that goal in mind in all that we did. It really helped to keep things in perspective.
The first issue we had to tackle, at the time, was school. Jake was about 11 or 12 at the time. He was not at all motivated by school or the things that he spent his time doing. The school wanted to talk about putting him on a behavior plan. We didn't want that. We had heard that this meant that things were really based on a "consequence" system. We knew Jake well. He was the kind of kid that reacted well to reward rather than consequence. That's the direction we would move. We developed a step-by-step plan that would lay out the exact expectation, and a simple reward.

We decided that if Jake could get through the day without crying, kicking or hitting, and have nice hands, that this was a start. He loved food. We made the first day's reward a food item that he loved. We practiced this for several days (it seems like it was weeks). We saw the potential for this lesson to expand into other things, and we did not want him using food as a reward forever. At the time, this was something that was very comforting to him, so it worked in the beginning. We continued with weekly meetings with the school so that we could pow-wow on how the progress was coming. Jake seemed very proud when he brought home the "board" with his food reward. I made sure that he immediately received the reward in order to make thewhole experience a successful one.

Step 2 happened after a sleepless night....we could see that there was a potential for him to learn what money was and to earn it as a reward. Up to this point, Jake did not even know what money was. So, before we could move to money, we decided that he needed to learn to earn his reward by being successful at each period during his school day. We cut the food picture into 6 pieces and he would earn each piece during the day until the entire picture was complete. We continued this for several days.

Step 3 was born out of the same expectation and concept for reward, but we would use a dollar. The very first day, Jake earned a one-piece dollar for the entire day. He brought the board home, I gave him a real dollar, we loaded into the car and drove to Taco Bell (his favorite place), he gave the lady a dollar and he received a taco! Voila! Success! He understood the concept that dollars bought things. He knew that he earned the dollar and that in itself was motivating. We continued this for 5 days.

Step 4 was now easy. We cut the dollar into 6 pieces, he would earn a piece for each successful period during his school day, and bring it home. We had come full circle. All of the school staff agreed that Jake was more cooperative at school. We hadn't had one behavioral incident at all during this time. We continued this for the rest of the school year. During that time, we decided to ask Jake what he would like for his reward ("prize") and he would tell us. We decided that in the beginning we could extent his wait time to a $5 prize, and each Friday he would get a small token prize. As time has passed (he's 22 years old now), Jake is able to work for money, save it up and buy a specific prize. He's even been able to save $50 for a vacation to Disney World. We went to the bank and got 50 $1 bills and took them with us so that he could keep track of his money.

This was our first successful strategy. We have learned that this kind of method gives both of our boys control, and a feeling of success. In addition, it has been transferrable to the job setting where they are both motivated to earn money.