Motivating autistic children

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A major problem encountered in the field of autism is the children's characteristic lack of motivation. This problem is especially apparent when autistic children attempt to complete learning tasks. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of correct vs incorrect task completion on children's motivation to respond to such tasks. Ss were 3 autistic children aged 6 yrs 1 mo, 11 yrs 11 mo, and 12 yrs 3 mo. Results demonstrate that when Ss worked on tasks at which they were typically incorrect, their motivation for those tasks decreased to extremely low levels. However, designing treatment procedures to prompt Ss to keep responding until they completed the tasks correctly served to increase Ss' motivation to respond to those tasks. The implications of these findings are that (a) autistic children's learning handicaps (which typically lead to low levels of correct responding) may result in few or inconsistent rewards for attempting to respond at all, thus decreasing the children's motivation; and (b) treatment procedures designed to keep the children responding until they complete a task correctly may result in coincidental reinforcement for perseverance, increasing the children's motivation to respond to those tasks. Results are discussed in relation to the literature on learned helplessness. (22 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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