Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling

Department name when degree awarded

Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Sarah E. Bloom (Committee Co-Chair), Timothy A. Slocum (Committee Co-Chair)


Sarah E. Bloom


Timothy A. Slocum


Lillian K. Durán


Thomas S. Higbee


Kerry E. Jordan


Andrew L. Samaha


Assessing preference for stimuli has been shown to be of value when determining potential rewards for individuals with disabilities. Researchers have found that preference for forms of social interaction can be identified for persons with disabilities. Furthermore, these same social interactions can be used as rewards for these same persons. This study conceptualized different languages as different types of social interactions. Assessing preference for languages may be of use to identify forms of social reinforcement that can be used with English Language Learners (ELLs) with disabilities. Identifying reinforcers may be of value for this population to inform how to structure language supports in their environment.

Five ELLs with disabilities between the ages of 10 and 17 years old participated in this study. We conducted a paired-stimulus preference assessment for specific praise statements in English and Spanish to determine the language in which the participants preferred praise. Following the preference assessment, we conducted a concurrent-chains reinforcer assessment to determine reinforcing efficacy of praise in each language. We found two of five participants preferred Spanish praise to English praise. Three of five participants’ preference was undifferentiated between Spanish and English praise. For four of the five participants praise in different languages functioned as a reinforcer. All participants’ preference assessments predicted, to a degree, the results of their reinforcer assessments. From these results we concluded our paired stimulus preference assessment was effective for evaluating preference for different types of praise.

In sum, the results of this study indicate that preference for language of praise can be systematically identified. Furthermore, if preference for praise in a specific language is identified, use of praise in this language is more rewarding than in other languages. These findings should inform teachers on ways to improve effectiveness of praise, and simultaneously provide support in home language for students that prefer praise in this language.