Positive reinforcement involves providing a reward or desirable consequence immediately following a target behavior, with the aim of increasing the likelihood of that behavior occurring again in the future. It focuses on highlighting and reinforcing positive behaviors rather than solely focusing on eliminating undesired behaviors. Positive reinforcement emphasizes the use of rewards and motivators to shape and encourage desired behaviors.

How Positive Reinforcement for ABA Therapy is used:

  1. Identifying Target Behaviors: In ABA therapy, target behaviors are selected based on the individual’s goals and needs. These behaviors can range from social skills to academic achievements or daily living tasks. The ABA therapist identifies specific behaviors to be reinforced and establishes clear criteria for success.
  2. Selecting Appropriate Reinforcers: Reinforcers are individualized based on the preferences and interests of the individual receiving therapy. ABA therapists often conduct preference assessments to determine the most effective reinforcers. These can include tangible rewards, such as toys or treats, or intangible rewards like praise, social interactions, or access to preferred activities.
  3. Prompting and Reinforcing Target Behaviors: Therapists use prompts and cues to guide individuals towards exhibiting the target behaviors. When the individual engages in the desired behavior, the therapist provides immediate reinforcement, such as verbal praise, a high-five, or access to a preferred item or activity. The reinforcement serves as a positive consequence, making the behavior more likely to occur again in the future.
  4. Shaping and Generalizing Behaviors: Through positive reinforcement, ABA therapists gradually shape behaviors towards the desired outcome. Initially, small steps towards the target behavior are reinforced, and as progress is made, the criteria for reinforcement is adjusted. Over time, the individual learns and generalizes the desired behavior across various settings and situations.
  5. Maintaining Motivation and Progress: Positive reinforcement helps maintain motivation and engagement during therapy sessions. By consistently reinforcing desired behaviors, individuals experience the benefits of their efforts, fostering a sense of accomplishment and reinforcing the value of positive behaviors. This positive experience encourages continued progress and a willingness to engage in further learning and skill development.
  6. Fading Reinforcement: As the target behavior becomes more established, the frequency and intensity of reinforcement may be gradually reduced. This process, known as fading, aims to promote independent and self-motivated behavior. However, intermittent reinforcement is often maintained to ensure the maintenance of the desired behavior over time.


Positive reinforcement is a fundamental principle in ABA therapy, promoting the acquisition and maintenance of desired behaviors. By utilizing rewards and motivators to reinforce positive behaviors, individuals with ASD or other developmental challenges can enhance their learning, social skills, and overall functioning. Positive reinforcement empowers individuals, increases their confidence, and creates a supportive environment for growth and progress. 

ABA therapists and parents can harness the power of positive reinforcement to inspire positive changes and pave the way for long-term success.