Ask Autism Personal Coach #1

Question: My 19 year old son with Aspergers lives at home with my husband and myself.  He currently isn’t working or going to school.  Since he doesn’t have any current responsibilities  we have asked him to do house chores when we are at work.  However, he rarely does chores around the house and has a general lack of motivation.  He really enjoys hanging out with his friends.  We tell him if he does chores we will give him money to go out with them more often. Do you have any suggestions on how we can get him to do chores more consistently?

Autism Personal Coach: Thank you for your question.  The first thing we usually want to know when dealing with independent living skills, such as doing house chores, is if the adult can independently do them?

In this case lets say your son can do them independently (if not we need to teach the skill to mastery level before requesting him to independently do this). Then it sounds like we are dealing with one of the core principles of ABA: reinforcement.  It sounds like you are using positive reinforcement to get these chores done.  Does he have a history of responding well  to positive reinforcement? If so, then thats great you are using this strategy.  However, immediacy is a big factor regarding reinforcement.  If you are offering the reinforcement at the end of a week of chores it may be too long of a wait for your son to get the reinforcement.  As a result the  the behavior that you want may not be getting reinforced. I would try offering the reinforcement much quicker starting out.

Another issue regarding reinforcement is the value of the reinforcer.  Is the reinforcement of getting money to go out with friends motivating enough for him to do these chores? If not, then you will need to find a reinforcer of greater value to him.

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