Howdy DSISD: “Giving contingent rewards is not compassionate”

Howdy DSISD,

Continuing my behaviorism pushback…

This piece on PBIS and behaviorism from Dr. Michael Hunsaker is making its way around the #ActuallyAutistic community today.


Giving contingent rewards is not compassionate, kind, or a loving action. Kids understand this fact, and they fight against it. So when a child accuses me of manipulating them, they are right.

I have been through my approach before. I will refer you here and here to learn what I recommend regarding PBIS and here for behavior management in general. Overall, what I wholeheartedly believe is that we need to stop using external motivation as a way of getting kids to engage. We are depriving them of learning for themselves how to act and behave because they want to be good and because they like how they feel when they do the right thing. We are teaching them that, at least in school, their primary motivation to complete work should be to receive a reward from teachers and other adults. We teach them to distrust their intrinsic motivations and desires. We are robbing them of the ability to develop their socioemotional sense of self on their terms.

Source: External Incentives DECREASE Intrinsic Motivation: Implications for Classroom Management – Why Haven't They Done That Yet?

Michael H (Dr H) on Twitter: "External Incentives DECREASE Intrinsic Motivation: Implications for Classroom Management. Ever wonder why rewarding your kid for things they like causes them to avoid it? #pbis #edchat #eduality #specialedchat #classroommanagement #aba #autism #sel"

Dr. Hunsaker is a behavioral neuroscientist and special education teacher. He’s active in autistic and disabled communities online. He is a well-respected ally. I’ve shared some of his work before. A recap:

Sara Luterman is an #ActuallyAutistic activist and writer. She runs NOS Magazine and has bylines in the Guardian and NYT. She’s an expert on autism and disability history. She’s seen and experienced a lot with regard to behaviorism. Here’s a thread from her on Dr. H’s piece.

Sara Luterman on Twitter: "“Giving contingent rewards is not compassionate, kind, or a loving action. Kids understand this fact, and they fight against it. So when a child accuses me of manipulating them, they are right.” Well, that’s officially 200% more self-awareness than I see from most behaviorists.…"

Sara Luterman on Twitter: "I think if you’re still measuring compliance as success, there’s a problem. Why do the kids need to be quiet while waiting in line? That’s totally arbitrary. If a kid is compliant 75% of the time, maybe that 25% they’re not, the rules are arbitrary."

Sara Luterman on Twitter: "Why is 100% compliance still the goal?… "

Why indeed.


While I’m here, a few recent ed related posts from my blog:




A sampling of autistic perspective from my Twitter timeline today:

Ann Memmott is an autistic autism researcher. I lean on her work heavily in my Neurodiversity in the Classroom narrative.

Ann Memmott on Twitter: "This. For the first ten years of my life, I was non-verbal, & rocked, & flapped, & lined things up, & ran wildly round supermarkets in the hellish glare, & later parroted words...and was frankly the happiest I've ever been. Conforming to society's expectations for me is the hell.…"

Ann Memmott on Twitter: "What am I working on right now? Academic work re better support for all #autistic people in Courts. Including those unable to speak. Updated autism guidelines for #churches, hosted by @oxforddiocese for the @churchofengland Early plans for four autism conferences next year."

Autistic writer and editor Elizabeth Roderick:

Elizabeth Roderick (semi-hiatus) on Twitter: "As the #actuallyautistic mom of a neurodivergent kid, here’s an FYI: What you say: “I love my kid but I hate the autism!” What your kid hears: “I hate you!” We cannot separate ourselves from “the autism”. If you hate our autisticness, you hate who we are as people."

Elizabeth Roderick (semi-hiatus) on Twitter: "Seriously- saying “the autism” is responsible for our distress is like telling a woman she’s only mad because she’s a woman, or because of “woman problems/PMS/hysteria”."

Shannon Des Roches Rosa runs THINKING PERSON'S GUIDE TO AUTISM, a wonderful community resource featuring OwnVoices writers.

Shannon Des Roches Rosa on Twitter: "Parents need to have their #autistic kids’ backs, and ensure those kids (& the world) know they are loved above all—and not burdens, not responsible for matters over which they have no control, & worthy of all the supports & accommodations they may need.…"

Shannon Des Roches Rosa on Twitter: "Autistic self-diagnosis is valid, because of multiple barriers to dx for those who aren’t white, male, $-secure, or able to navigate social services. When financially/socially secure white #autistic dudes sneer at the self-dx’d, that is some high-test ignorance. #Neurodiversity"