How to Use Negative Reinforcement During ABA Therapy

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In ABA therapy, a therapist will use positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors and negative reinforcement to discourage undesirable ones. The process of using these two types of rewards is called extinction-based training.

Negative reinforcement is a type of reward that provides a negative consequence for an undesired behavior. For example, if your child struggles with staying on task, you might use the time-out chair or take away privileges. Read more in detail here: examples of negative reinforcement.


Negative reinforcement may be employed in addition to positive reward in applied behavior analysis.

Negative reinforcement is often confused with punishment, although it is not. It simply entails eliminating an unpleasant input in order to encourage desirable behavior.

What Is Negative Reinforcement and How Does It Work?

Negative reinforcement occurs when a person’s action results in the removal of an undesired stimulus from their surroundings. The elimination of the stimulus (negative reinforcement) results in the person’s desired outcome.

A situation of negative reinforcement occurs when a child’s activity results in the elimination of an unpleasant stimulus that is a hindrance to what they wish to accomplish.

The “stimulus” is whatever is taken away from the kid that is causing them grief in applied behavior analysis. A noise, an item, a fragrance, or even a person might be the source.

When the stimulus is withdrawn, the kid must continue to participate in the behavior that resulted in the positive outcome when comparable conditions emerge again for the full consequences of negative reinforcement to be felt.

In ABA Therapy, Negative Reinforcement is used.

It could help to conceive of “negative” in terms of the mathematical concept of subtraction (rather than the qualitative assessment of “negative” to indicate something awful) to comprehend how negative reinforcement is used in ABA treatment. When someone takes a shower to get rid of body odor, they are removing their undesirable odor. Taking a shower was “negatively rewarded” in ABA words by removing (or decreasing) the unpleasant odor. This is an example of negative reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement may also be used to improve sleep by turning off a light at night (the light is removed). As a result, when it is time to sleep, a person will be more likely to switch off the light.

Negative reinforcement has no inherent flaws or disadvantages. It is a component of neurotypical and neurodiverse people’s daily lives.

Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are not mutually exclusive. While positive reinforcement is frequently associated with rewarding a client for completing a task or exhibiting good behavior, negative reinforcement may also give a reward by eliminating an unpleasant stimulus from the environment.

Reinforcement: Negative vs. Positive

Positive reinforcement differs from negative reinforcement in that it involves the addition of a stimulus that is not already present in the environment when a person’s conduct improves. The idea is that by adding the stimulus, the customer will be more likely to modify their behavior when the chance arises in the future.

Ultimately, positive reinforcement and In ABA Therapy, Negative Reinforcement is used. are like two sides of the same coin. They both reward the child, either by giving them something desirable or by removing something undesirable, to encourage the child to continue to improve their behavior.

When negative reinforcement is used in applied behavior analysis, the result (consequence) is in the client’s favor. Negative reinforcement does not occur when the client responds negatively to the absence of the stimulus, resulting in the desired action not occurring.

Negative Reinforcement (Negative Reinforcement) Badly

When a kid participates in unpleasant conduct and receives anything as a result of it, it is a poor use of negative reinforcement in treatment. The confusion stems from the fact that the “negative” in the word “negative reaction” might be confused with poor conduct.

A youngster having a tantrum because they don’t receive sweets when they want it is an example, and the parent responding by giving the child the candy to end the tantrum. While the client’s conduct may seem to be negative, this is not an example of negative reinforcement in the strict sense. After all, the customer received the candy, therefore the conduct was favorably reinforced.

It was the parent’s conduct that was adversely reinforced in this case, not the child’s. The father clearly wished for the outburst to end. The tantrum is an unpleasant stimulus in this case, the spark in the environment that causes psychological pain or discomfort.

The candy was given to the youngster, and it was successful in ending the tantrum (Taking Away the Aversive Stimulus). The negative sensation was eliminated from the parent’s viewpoint, resulting in a more desirable condition. Even though it may seem that the youngster is getting away with inappropriate conduct, the parent’s behavior is being adversely rewarded.

An ABA therapist will evaluate the child’s and parents’ antecedents, actions, and consequences in order to determine how to assist the parents (or caregivers) in avoiding the trap of negatively reinforcing their own unhelpful conduct.

Taking Away the Aversive Stimulus

Negative reinforcement can be used during ABA therapy by Taking Away the Aversive Stimulus.

A youngster with autism, for example, may be terrified of noisy hand dryers in public restrooms, becoming agitated and disruptive whenever they hear one. To prevent this problem, the child’s parents should cease using public bathrooms completely, inadvertently reinforcing the unpleasant habit.

A therapist, on the other hand, would see an opportunity to provide the youngster noise-cancelling headphones to use in public facilities. Because the unpleasant signal is removed, this is a more effective kind of negative reinforcement.

When utilizing negative reinforcement in ABA treatment, the therapist and the rest of the caregiving team should support or enhance the child’s conduct that led to the reinforcement. When an unpleasant input is adequately controlled, the true reinforcement occurs when there is a probable rise in the future frequency of the activity.

Tangible & Intangible Negative Reinforcement

What makes for good In ABA Therapy, Negative Reinforcement is used.? Tangible items, such as toys, tablet devices, or confections, are most commonly used by therapists based on their assessments of what motivates the child the most.

Tangible incentives may seem to have a lot of promise for causing desirable behavior in certain children, but this is not true for all children in all settings. Some people would rather relax, listen to music or specific noises, or get other intangible benefits. Again, it is the therapist’s responsibility to watch the child’s ABCs and then precisely match reinforcement schedules to the child’s performance and what can be offered fast.

Researchers discovered in 1971 that social reinforcement (praise and encouragement) improved the academic performance of difficult pupils when it occurred after the students had received concrete rewards. Combining tangible reward with social reinforcement has also been shown to be helpful in other studies.

Making Provisions for Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement, like positive reinforcement, may be used mistakenly, resulting in harmful actions being encouraged. With this in mind, an ABA therapist should be aware that negative reinforcement occurs often and without warning.

Reinforcement naturally (and even automatically) accompanies conduct in daily situations, increasing the chance that the action will occur again. It may sometimes come down to the therapist’s intentions and judgements regarding which actions should be punished.

For that reason, the use of In ABA Therapy, Negative Reinforcement is used. needs to be carefully planned. Poor use of negative reinforcement can encourage undesirable behavior (as seen in the examples above). It is very important for a therapist to have an understanding of the proper behaviors that need to be reinforced. Without such a plan, the child may default to maladaptive behavior.

To avoid this, the ABA therapist must examine the data gathered from their observations of the antecedent-behavior-consequence model, as well as preference assessment and other work-related systems. The goal is to discover the patterns that both stimulate and repress the desired behaviour. An intervention strategy may be prepared based on this study.


What Is Negative Reinforcement and How Does It Work? Definition, 3 Types, and Examples. (December 2019). Psych Central.

Negative Reinforcement Neural Mechanisms in Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders (March 15, 2015) The Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders is a publication dedicated to the study of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement Vanderbilt University is a private university in Nashville, Tennessee.

Modification of behavior (2008). Children and Adolescents, Volume 2 of the Handbook of Clinical Psychology.

Academic Performance of Underachieving Students: Systematic Reinforcement 1971 (Winter). The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a publication dedicated to the study of human behavior.

Negative reinforcement is a technique that can be used to increase the rate of desired behavior. The “negative reinforcement examples in the classroom” are a few examples of how this could be done.

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