How To Use Rewards To Bring Out The Best In Your Exceptional Child

Ok so let me start this post by saying that I was originally against the idea of using rewards to get Michael to learn to use good behavior. I remember the exact conversation I had with his educator that went something like, “Isn’t that useful ABA type stuff for when kids with special needs are young and really don’t understand why the need to listen? He’s 11.” She quickly reassured me though that rewards can work well at any age, and even so-called neuro typical adults use them. You know those times you say, if I push through this deadline I’m going to go get a double latte with whipped cream after work, or I will treat myself to dinner out? Well, guess what parents, you are doing the reward system too! Obviously it is not something you will be continuing with your child indefinitively, but if it helps get them back on the right track as it has done for Michael, then go for it.

We have been using a points system where after Michael earns a certain amount of points, he can redeem it for a favorite video game or toy, small and not too expensive. We are now starting him on earning more points for a bigger reward, and have given him several options to choose- eating out at a favorite restaurant, a more expensive toy or a longer outing with Mom or Dad at a coveted place. What I have been impressed by with Michael, is how the combination of finding the right medication, along with good anxiety management tools and a behavior system that he really seems to understand, has been paying off. He is really getting how to control his words, actions and thoughts. Yes, there are still aggression and outbursts, but there is less of them, andd they are quickly followed by the use of strategies as well as learning lessons. He also has the added incentive of working towards something with his points. Dad and I could not be more proud of the hard work he is putting in, all among managing diabetes, OCD and the regular tween/teen hormones.

Exceptional Parents, have you ever been nervous about trying a strategy with your Exceptional Child that you think will not work? Never close the door on anything, as long as it is not something that will hurt your child of course. And if something worked when they were younger, don’t be afraid to fine tune and come back to it. Always go with your child’s flow. Praise their efforts. They will know when you really feel proud of them. And bask in their success with them. It means you got them that much closer to a life of independence and becoming contributing members of society as they deserve to be. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD  and Type 1 Diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website,


4 thoughts on “How To Use Rewards To Bring Out The Best In Your Exceptional Child

    1. Hi Sheila. Not a problem at all. I’m happy to help. What have you done so far that has NOT worked? I know one thing for sure. All kids with autism are different and unique, just like their neuro typical peers, and I don’t want to tell you what you probably already know. I look forward to hearing back from you.
      You’re welcome.


      1. Hi – we’ve exhausted meds, they actually made him more aggressive. Our ABA team is attempting to start a new “point” system and also looking into ACT therapy. We’ve also created a “calm down” room for him but he usually refuses to use it because his ODD kicks in. Currently, we’re trying the 5 point scale and trying to get him to recognize and regulate his emotions before he explodes. We are seeing little progress and in a strange way it’s like he’s “addicted” to losing control. Thank you in advance if you share any strategies that have helped your family.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi-yes, unfortunately meds can sometimes make the child more aggressive. They can work though, but often it takes many trials of different types to see what is best for your child’s brain chemistry. We have tried several, and though we do not have a perfect balance yet, I am still optimistic that we will find it. Of course, meds don’t always work for everybody. Glad to hear the ABA team has some good ideas with a points system. We are actually using that as achieving small, medium, and now working towards a bigger reward is helping Michael a lot. I have used a calm down room or corner in the past, but for sure, it has to have tools that your child feels could help. ODD is so tricky, as they are wired to automatically fight everything in their path from what I understand, but did your son have choices in what he could put in his corner and what he could remove? We have used the five point scale too in the past. It is not working now for us, but I am looking into using “The Zones Of Regulation”. If your child is able to understand it, the whole point is that emotions are all normal, it’s just learning to recognize them for what they are and when they are appropriate. As for being addicted to losing control, I hear you. I think all kids with challenging behavior feed of the attention, and somehow feel they cannot get attention from positive things. What worked for us is acknowledging every time Michael did something positive and paying more attention to that than negative behavior. Finally, have you ever tried WiIlbargher Protocol Massage or Qigong Sensory Massages? If you are interested, I could send you the links with more information on each. You’ll need to be trained by an OT and certified massage therapist, but then you can perform the massage on your child at home. Good luck and I will let you know if I find any other information to send along.

        Liked by 1 person

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