Differential Reinforcement
From: PENT
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 1:54 PM
Subject: Differential Reinforcement

Greetings Cadre members, SELPA Directors, and supporters,

Hope everyone enjoyed their spring vacations!

As we move into the remainder of the school year, it is important to keep our students motivated. By sufficiently reinforcing the positive behaviors our students use, it helps to ensure the behaviors will be repeated. So let’s review our differential reinforcement procedures.

The three most commonly used differential reinforcement procedures are differential reinforcement of other behaviors (DRO), differential reinforcement of incompatible/alternative behaviors (DRI/DRA), and differential reinforcement of lower rates of behavior (DRL). Here are some simple examples of these procedures.

1. DRO (Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior)
- Reinforce student for a period of time when inappropriate behavior does NOT occur
- Example: No calling out in class for 10 minutes, then reinforce
- Gradually increase interval

2. DRI (Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behaviors)
- Identify appropriate behavior that is opposite of maladaptive one
- Systematically reinforce appropriate behavior
- Example: Reinforce “quiet hands” to decrease hand-flapping
- Example: Reinforce student who is coloring (both hands busy) instead of face-slapping

3. DRL (Differential Reinforcement of Lower Rates of Behavior)
- Reinforce a lower rate of an inappropriate behavior
- Example: Student who engages in 15 minutes of self-stimulating behavior is told that if she keeps self-stimulation to 10 minutes, then she will receive a reinforcer
- Gradually decrease time to 5 minutes, then to 1 minute, etc.

These procedures can reinforce the reduction or replacement of undesirable behaviors with alternative behaviors that are incompatible with the undesired behaviors.

For more ways to effectively use differential reinforcement in your behavioral programming, continue to seek your Cadre’s support.


Vanessa Patterson, M.A., BCBA
PENT Leader



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