Guiding Behavior Change in SPD: 15 Differential Reinforcement Techniques

For children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), navigating the world can be challenging. Differential reinforcement offers effective strategies to promote desired behaviors while reducing undesired ones. This blog explores 15 examples of differential reinforcement techniques for SPD, with situations and possible interventions.

Target Behaviors:

  • Playing cooperatively: Rewarding the child for sharing toys and taking turns, while providing neutral consequences for grabbing or not sharing.
  • Completing homework: Offering praise and preferred activities for completing assignments, while providing reminders or short breaks for incomplete work.
  • Asking for help: Rewarding the child for verbally requesting assistance, while ignoring whining or demanding behavior.
  • Tolerating sensory stimuli: Offering positive reinforcement for calm reactions to loud noises or crowded environments, while providing calming activities during sensory overload.
  • Managing transitions: Rewarding the child for following transitions smoothly, while offering additional support or breaks if they struggle.
  • Expressing emotions appropriately: Praising the child for using words to express their feelings, while ignoring tantrums or meltdowns.
  • Trying new foods: Offering small rewards for tasting new foods, while remaining neutral if they decline.
  • Engaging in social interactions: Rewarding the child for initiating conversations and playing with other children, while providing prompting or social scripts for hesitant interactions.
  • Following instructions: Offering praise for attentive listening and following directions accurately, while providing rephrased instructions or additional support for incomplete tasks.
  • Managing anger: Rewarding the child for using calming techniques during moments of frustration, while ignoring yelling or hitting.
  • Taking care of belongings: Offering positive reinforcement for putting away toys and maintaining personal space, while providing reminders or gentle guidance for neglectful behavior.
  • Participating in self-care routines: Rewarding the child for completing tasks like brushing their teeth or dressing independently, while offering assistance or reducing expectations if they struggle.
  • Participating in sensory activities: Offering positive reinforcement for engaging in calming or stimulating sensory activities, while providing redirection or alternative options if the chosen activity is disruptive.
  • Completing chores: Rewarding the child for completing assigned chores and contributing to household tasks, while offering reminders or assistance if they show resistance.
  • Managing impulsivity: Rewarding the child for waiting their turn and thinking before acting, while providing prompting or redirection for impulsive behavior.
  • By implementing differential reinforcement techniques consistently and with understanding, parents, educators, and therapists can support children with SPD in developing desired behaviors and overcoming challenges, fostering positive development and a more fulfilling sensory journey.

Additional Resources for Parents:

How Dr. Sumeet Dhawan Can Help:


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