Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Special Education and Rehabilitation

Advisor/Chair:

Thomas Higbee

Abstract

Many efforts in teaching children with autism are focused on increasing the value of praise as a reward for work. Increasing the value of praise can help children with autism to work in a natural setting, without requiring constant rewards of food or toys for work. In this study, I analyzed a pairing method—a technique of providing verbal praise while simultaneously providing a food reward—to assess whether it would result in an increased value for praise for participants in the study. First, a baseline phase was conducted in which praise statements were provided as a reward for a certain task to see how quickly participants would engage in the task. In the next phase, a pairing condition was implemented in which participants were prompted to engage in the same task; food was provided along with praise as a reward for working on the given task. Finally, during the test phase, praise was again provided as the sole reward for the task, and I measured how quickly participants worked on the task to evaluate whether the value of praise had been increased. During the test phase two participants continued to engage in the task relatively quickly, suggesting that the value of praise had been increased for these two participants.

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