Increasing Motivation in Academics for Children with Autism in Inclusive Classrooms

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
L. B. Glugatch1 and K. Oliver2, (1)Special Education, University California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, (2)University California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
Background: Many children with ASD show little to no interest in academic assignments that are challenging or uninteresting. This may lead to increases in disruptive behavior in order to avoid or escape the non-preferred tasks. By incorporating motivational components of Pivotal Response Treatment in homework tasks, previous studies found faster completion rates, decreases in disruptive behavior, and improved interest (Koegel, Singh, Koegel, 2010).

Objectives:  This study looks to determine if using motivational components during academic tasks will increase child affect, interest, and percentage of correct answers in an inclusive classroom environment.

Methods:  An alternating treatment design was employed to assess the effectiveness of two different conditions (i.e., standard worksheet condition and motivation/natural reinforcer condition). The standard worksheet condition consisted of an everyday worksheet that was assigned to the whole class. These worksheets were repetitive and included tasks such as identifying and writing letters and sight words. The motivation/natural reinforcer condition included the core components of PRT techniques of natural reinforcement, child choice, and interspersing maintenance and acquisition tasks. For example, if the target child spelled the word “train”, the child would immediately gain access to play with a toy train.

Results:  During the motivation condition, the participant scored higher in interest ratings (see Figure 1). During the motivation condition, the participant also scored higher in affect ratings (see Figure 2). The participant correctly identified more letters independently in the motivation condition than the standard worksheet condition for 2-letter, 3-letter, and 4-letter words. The child needed on average twice the amount of prompts to finish an academic task during the standard worksheet condition compared to the motivation condition.

Conclusions:  When motivational components were embedded into academic tasks, the participant showed higher interest, happiness, and identified more letters correctly. Furthermore, these findings support children with ASD have the ability to complete academic tasks, but rather a lack of motivation can contribute to unfinished work and disruptive behaviors during school.