Positive reinforcement- or lack thereof?

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Jayo
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04 May 2012, 7:07 pm

As an adult Aspie, one thing that was lacking throughout most of my life - both pre-diagnosis and post-dx - was lack of positive reinforcement. I believe this was due to peers, parents etc believing that certain desirable behaviours or responses to stimuli were just "expected", so why should I get "rewarded" if I happen to guess or work out the proper response. :roll: Even a former friend once said to me when I told him that "I did behaviour X just like I should have, given circumstance Y" - he'd just say sarcastically, "well, congratulations, that's how you're supposed to do it." :x

I know that lack of positive reinforcement can have a profound negative effect on both NTs, not just people on the spectrum. But for those on the spectrum, well, I guess the dilemma that guardians are faced with is that they might end up giving too much positive reinforcement and then when the child grows up, he/she will be bewildered as to why nobody seems to care about them exhibiting desirable behaviours. Sure, they might not see them as odd or different to the same extent, but I guess that's why parents, teachers etc are reluctant to over-praise those of us with ASD in our early years. :(

Then there's the inverse, where an Aspie child can get too much negative reinforcement. I attended a conference speaker once who said that in childhood, we are told certain messages that we carry with us, like when a parent has a guest over and her son turns away, she'll say to the guest "oh, he's just shy" and this perpetuates itself in the child's mind. Likewise when we on the spectrum get comments like "oh, he's just aloof, or clumsy, or not all there" then we might be more inclined to believe that than we should. I know that in my teens, I had a very intolerant stepmom who would assign tasks to me like painting or assembling furniture, then when I misinterpreted some instruction she would scream at me and say that I'm very "ham-fisted". :evil: So as a result, I avoided any "handy" kind of work until I was about 30 when I confronted the negative feedback as being misplaced. This was post-diagnosis, so that helped too. :) Might have helped if I was told "I know you're trying to do a good job, and you want to, but you need to do such-and-such better - it will take a little more practice on your part, but you can do it." :D

Objectively speaking, I would not be so cynical about the power of positive reinforcement - if only parents would discard any fears that their circle of friends would see them as coddling the child. And obviously, that's very much an NT fear. 8O



questor
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04 May 2012, 8:20 pm

I had to endure tons of negative reinforcement most of my life, and long ago had my fill of it. I minimize contact with relatives because of this. On those few occasions when they do express positive reinforcement, it sounds like they are talking to a dog. I am not a "good doggie." I am an imperfect human, but nobody is perfect, including NTs. You'd think that now I am in my 50s I wouldn't have to put up with this. HA! :x :roll:


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DJFester
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05 May 2012, 12:00 am

Positive reinforcement, what's that? </sarcasm>


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