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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Establishing Praise as a Reinforcer In ABA

Some kids don’t seem to respond to praise as well as other kids do.

Kids with ASD May Not Respond to Praise

Children with autism spectrum disorder, specifically, are often thought to respond differently to and learn differently from social cues. This includes when praise is given.

Kids with Trauma Experiences May Not Respond to Praise

Another population to consider when praise does not seem effective as a reinforcer is people who have experienced trauma.

Be sure to rule-out trauma and assess for trauma in a client’s current and previous experience as an action of best practice in ABA services.

A Research Study on Praise as a Conditioned Reinforcer

One study by Dudley and colleagues (2019) looked at establishing praise as a reinforcer.

The researchers acknowledged how praise and attention may not function as reinforcers for some kids with autism.

They mention how some research explores how contingently pairing praise with someone’s reinforcers can lead to praise becoming a conditioned reinforcer.

In the study by Dudley, et. al. (2019), they looked at how praise could become a generalized conditioned reinforcer by pairing praise with four reinforcers. They compared this with how praise could become a conditioned reinforcer by pairing praise with one reinforcer.

The researchers further support that praise can be conditioned as a reinforcer.

Praise can Be Conditioned as a Reinforcer

Based on the study mentioned above and previous studies completed, it can be concluded that praise may be a beneficial reinforcer to use for most clients even if they don’t seem to respond well by displaying appropriate behaviors at first as a result of the praise.

Praise is a Recommended Reinforcement Option

Praise is a consequence that should be considered as a possible recommendation to help kids learn new behaviors and skills.

Since it is typically fairly easy to use, it is often socially acceptable to parents, teachers, and other people helping and caring for kids, and does not seem to result in poor health outcomes like other reinforcers may such as food, treats, or electronic time, praise is an ideal reinforcer option.

Consider praise as a reinforcer in ABA services even if you need to work on conditioning praise as a reinforcer for a child.

Remember to Assess for Trauma

However, be sure to assess for a trauma background as this may play a role in how a child responds to praise and may require a non-traditional ABA intervention.

*I recommend taking the CEUey training: Trauma-Informed Care for Behavior Analysts to learn more about trauma as it has to do with ABA.


Dudley, LL, Axe, JB, Allen, RF, Sweeney‐Kerwin, EJ. Establishing praise as a conditioned reinforcer: Pairing with one versus multiple reinforcers. Behavioral Interventions. 2019; 119.


Establishing Praise as a Reinforcer In ABA

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2019). Establishing Praise as a Reinforcer In ABA. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 6, 2020, from