Where do you get your reinforcers?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Kate Change, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Aug 24, 2010

    I teach kindergarten in an autism specific classroom. This year I have six students, one of whom eats all day. Last year, I provided the food reinforcers and some snacks, but with more students and one who is always hungry, I can tell already I will not be able to afford this. I spent 40$ on food this week and we are already running low. Last year I spent less than $40 per month. We have free breakfasts and lunches, but the children seldom eat the food provided. I plan to meet with my paras tomorrow to tell them we will have to cut at least one snack time.

    Two of my parents occaisonally send in food, but neither of these kiddos is a big eater and one parent especially provides more that her child's share. Do I send specific letters requesting reinforcers and snacks? In the general newsletter I requested them, but only the same two parents sent food. My school does not have money for supplies so I'm sure that they will not provide money for food when the lunches and breakfasts are already free.

    Anyone have a solution that won't break me financially? I'm at the point this month where I'm going to have to skip a grocery trip as it is and I just can't afford to continue this way.
     
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  3. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

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    Aug 24, 2010

    I guess I'm wondering why you're feeding these kids so much. If they're provided breakfast and lunch - - why is it your job to provide snacks? Are you talking about cooking lessons? If so, cut cooking down to one day per week. If you're talking strictly reward-based snacks then nix that and come up with something else. Or use M&M's or somthing tiny. I'm not above bribary by any means. But I give out M&M's, goldfish, and marshmallows if they're working hard. Today I think each kiddo got like four M&M's a piece. I really make them work for them. I also made cookies for the first day and we do a cooking lesson once per week. Other than that, it's not my job to feed those kiddos snacks every day. And I'd be surprised if their parents expected that. ?? I wouldn't.

    My son is in a life skills room and his old teacher used to ask for boxes of brownie mix, etc. for cooking and I thought that was totally reasonable.

    Maybe I'm way off base here, and elementary is different. But in middle school here, snacks aren't the norm.
     
  4. mom2mikey

    mom2mikey Cohort

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    Aug 24, 2010

    All food reinforcers in our classroom come from the parents. I send a note in their communication book as we get low on any specific type of reinforcer. Snacks are always sent by the parents. I would go with buying a few cheap plastic food containers that the students put the leftovers from breakfast or lunch in and then save for snack is parents are unable to buy snacks. There is no reason they can't eat those foods for snacks. Reinforcers are a bit different as they have to be something desirable (although they would take on more power if you were giving them regular food the rest of the time).
     
  5. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Aug 24, 2010

    Often autistic students have specific issues with food. They will often go hungry rather than eat food with textures or flavors that they can't handle.

    For example, our school provided pancakes this morning, with the syrup already on them. None of my students would eat the syrup so they wouldn't eat the pancakes. This means that if I had not provided "snacks", the children would not have eaten breakfast. For lunch, we had pizza, which only one of my students will eat. Again, no snacks and the children go home at 3:30 with out having eaten all day. (I try to use cereal and other more healthy snacks to compensate).

    We always present the food to the children and have them try a bite, but generally they cough it back up onto the table.

    Our reinforcers are not all food and it is different food from the snacks, but the total food cost is getting too high. I think I will send a reinforcer request home with the students whose parents are not sending anything. That would just leave me with the snacks. Some days, they do serve food the kids will eat.
     
  6. teacher12345

    teacher12345 Cohort

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    Aug 24, 2010

    Do the parents have a lunch menu? So that they can look at the food that is going to be served and then if it isn't something that their child will eat then they ca pack a lunch? Instead of a reinforcer request or in edition to, maybe ask for things such as a box of cereal, granola bars, mac N'cheese if your kids will eat that, Apple sauce, bread, peanut butter, jelly, etc.
    Does your school provide any other option? Such as peanut butter and jelly? Could you ask the cafeteria to leave a couple of pancakes without syrup?
     
  7. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    Aug 24, 2010

    At my school we fill out a reinforcer order and get it delivered once a month. I do occasionally buy extra things for a treat. I used to spend my own money but got tired of it. I would definitely try to send a reinforcer list home.
     
  8. jadepnai

    jadepnai Rookie

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    Aug 24, 2010

    To help cut my spending cost on treats, I would include in my treasure box homework passes or extra computer time. My students must earn a minimum of 30 tickets to order to earn a reward. I usually spend less than 5 bucks a month on treats.I always buy it at the dollar store. I only have a total of 6 kids in my room :)



     
  9. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    Yeah, I don't mind spending $5 but my students are very low functioning so non-edible reinforcers don't really do the trick. They dont' have homework and don't know how to use the computer. It's really hard finding treats for them.
     
  10. teacher12345

    teacher12345 Cohort

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    Aug 24, 2010

    what about little toys that do things? like the toy that have lights that spin around?http://www.amazon.com/Meteor-Storm-Changing-Pattern-Spinner/dp/B000BHSS6A or http://www.cyi.net/index.php?option=cyi-004&op1=cm-004j_p_q_-_184

    Here are some other ideas for reinforcers:
    http://www.cyi.net/index.php?option=cyi-004&op1=cm-004j_p_q_-_250
    playing video clips of favorite videos
    blowing a pinwheel
    bubbles or bubble machine
    little mcdonalds/kids meal toys
    wind up toys
    a stuffed toy that sings and dances
    a toy that you throw on the ground and it talks

    these toys all cost but in the long run are cheaper than food reinforcers probably
     
  11. amaran20

    amaran20 Rookie

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    Aug 25, 2010

    I teach prek self-contained students with autism and I ask parents to send in large boxes of snacks such as goldfish or animal crackers. Then at snack time I pass them out to the kids on a napkin. I allow them seconds but no more. My school also gets free breakfast but I ask parents to send in a box of cereal in case the kids don't like the breakfast. I will buy a box of snacks about once a month, but I ask parents when we're running low. I have one child on a gluten free diet and her mom supplies all her food. For reinforcers I use skittles, and a big bag goes a long way.
     
  12. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    It seems like some of you are using reinforcers/snacks interchangeably. At my school we have snack time but the reinforcers are what they earn for doing their work, good behavior, etc. Some of them like musical items, toys, or other tangible items. Mostly though, they respond to edibles. If they get bored of something they wont' want it anymore so we have to keep things new all the time. That's where the problem comes in and forces us to buy stuff. After holidays I usually stock up on 75% off candy and whatnot just so I don't go broke. Sometimes we can request them to order certain chips or cookies but it takes forever to get them.
     
  13. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Aug 25, 2010

    I have parents send snacks as well as any edible reinforcers... I had a little guy last year that liked food in general but particularly raisins... and especially the Craisins. when he got low, I wrote a note and mom would send more. I usually do a snack rotation (either daily or weekly, depending on the number of kids I have)... and tell parents that if their kid is on a special diet (GF, etc) that I need them to provide safe snacks for their child in case they can't eat what the rest of the class has. I've never had a problem. Our program also has a creditcard for one of the grocery stores that we can use if we need food items for cooking or projects, whichi s REALLY nice.
     
  14. teacher12345

    teacher12345 Cohort

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    What if you applied for a grant on donors choose for a gift card to one of your local grocery stores?
     
  15. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    We can't do donors choose because we are a private school.
     
  16. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Aug 25, 2010

    I like the donors choose idea, I use them, but I didn't know I could get gift cards to the grocery store! That would be perfect. We are, of course, also in a high poverty area, so it's been a bit hard to ask for more from the students families.

    I try to use non-edible reinforcement whenever possible, but those high level reinforcers always seem to be food. I'm not too bugged by buying the reinforcers, those they earn and I don't spend a huge amount on those. It's the food. It's too much to feed them so much. But I think I've gotten some great ideas from you all.

    My EAs and I discussed it this morning and one of them suggested rather than sending a personal note to the parent demanding food, to add a section to the monthly newsletter to thank the parents who did and keep a wish list posted. That seems like a less aggressive approach.
     
  17. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Aug 25, 2010

    I am jealous to hear about schools that pay for things like this. Our budget is cut so badly that teachers regularly break into tears in our staff meetings. There's no way the school would pay for additional food.
     
  18. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

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    Aug 27, 2010

    Kate, you're a good woman. 'Cause if my kiddos don't want their breakfast - they go without. I totally understand what you're saying - and that it's a high poverty area (mine is too) - and that kiddos with ASD are very particular. But like you said, sometimes they do serve a breakfast that the kiddos will eat so maybe on those days you could cut back on snacks and give them a few small items as reinforcers during work time. Do you guys not do cooking lessons then...? If you got the menu ahead of time, found out what your kiddos won't eat, made THAT day your "cooking" day, etc. That way you're making it into a functional lesson....? Just throwing ideas out there. :)
     
  19. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Aug 27, 2010

    It sounds to me that you are not providing snacks but more like meals. I would send home the school menu and highlight the foods that a student will not eat and ask parents to send in an alternative "meal" or feed their child before being sent to school. If the parent cannot afford to send in another meal, go to the principal. You should not be spending that much a week in your classroom.

    My school provides snacks to our students but my students are not allowed to have it, if they have their own snack. I am a firm believer in not over-feeding kids. The only time the majority of our students do anything physical is when they are at school, and offering a student 4 servings of a food item is not helping with the obesity issues in my school (especially when they have a full lunch in their school bag). I have students who will eat, not because they are hungry but because it is being offered. Some co-workers call me mean, but if a student is hungry because they don't have food at home, I don't understand why they will feed a student until they complain about their stomach is hurting, when they could just send the extra servings home with them at the end of the day so that they will have food at home for that night.
     
  20. teacher12345

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    Aug 27, 2010

    Maybe your local grocery store would donate a gift card to your classroom?
     
  21. specialeduc8tor

    specialeduc8tor Rookie

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    Aug 28, 2010

    When I was in middle school, we weren't allowed to give food as reinforcers. The whole food activating pleasure zones in the brain leading to obesity argument. So I had to get creative... First I asked the students what they would prefer for non-food/inexpensive rewards. Some ideas:

    Sit in the teacher's chair for class period
    Homework pass/Less problems to do
    Operate mouse for powerpoint
    Earrings (can be purchased on sale in packs)
    Use goofy pencil for a day
    Choose review game for that day
    Listen to radio while doing classwork/for last 5 minutes of class
    Movie day
    Educational computer game day
     
  22. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Here's what I think:

    It is not a teacher's responsibility to provide food for the students. Obviously, there are times where a special project or special treat might require a purchase at the grocery store, but on a teacher salary, there is no way ANY teacher should be spending $40 a week on groceries. Also, having to "skip a grocery trip" - that shouldn't even be an option for you.

    This is one of the things that the kids just have to learn. I teach an autism class also. I might be "the tough guy" - but I am of the philosophy, "If you don't eat what's being served, you don't eat." They're not going to starve. They get breakfast and lunch every day. There's SOMETHING on there they can eat every day. I tell the parents which foods the kids don't like and I send home menus. I let them know that they're welcome to send something in that day if the kids don't like it. The parents never send anything in. Most of them do not have the money to do so.

    With that, my kids have learned (albeit very slowly) to choose things in the cafeteria that they will eat. I even implemented (with the approval of admin and the parents) a nutrition planner, where we only let them get pizza one day a week, even though it's available every day. I have several kids who are considerably overweight and do not need to be eating pizza every day. I also had extremely picky eaters who would choose nothing but pizza. We now have a kid who will eat a tuna sandwich! We put it on his plate every day for two weeks and finally he took a bite and LOVED IT. Much healthier than Pizza, for sure! We tied this in for all of the kids with a very basic nutrition lesson (my kids are extremely low functioning). We have a little chart of who ate fruit today, who ate grains today, etc.

    The kids have snack every day because our lunch isn't until 1:00. They are allowed to bring a healthy snack from home (no chips or candy) or they will be given a snack at school. Because it is me who is providing the snack (no budget for this area) - I buy boxes of Cheerios and give them the Cheerios (a 1/2 cup or so) for snack. This is just enough to tide them over so they're not starving.

    For reinforcers:

    We do use candy as reinforcers. My kids have it in their IEPs that edibles are permitted to be used for academic and behavioral support purposes. At the beginning of the year, I asked each parent for $10, but said that if it was a hardship to let me know. One parent send in the $10. Other than that, I have sent out emails to people at school (admin, support team, people who love us, etc.) and I say, "If anyone wants to support the ____ Program, you are welcome to donate any of the following items:
    -Cocoa Puffs
    -Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
    -Skittles

    etc. This was VERY successful! PEople will just pick up an extra bag of candy at the store and give it to us. They know how hard we work, so they love to support us in that simple way.

    These (like Zoom said) are given in VERY small quantities. They may earn all of their tokens and get 3 skittles. By the end of the day, most of them haven't even had a full serving of whatever they're earning. They still work very hard for these reinforcers. I have a few lower/lower/lower kids who are reinforced much more frequently because they are working on basic attending and pre-academic skills (sitting in chair, eye contact) - but once these basic skills are achieved, we will up the anty on the reinforcement schedule.

    I might spend $20 on candy at the dollar store and be good for several months, and that is supplemented with donations from admin and other supporters of my program.

    I would love to figure out a way that I could get fruit donated to my classroom, because I think it'd be awesome to give them fruit every day for snack. We do cheerios because it's so cheap and you get so many of them (dollar store). It's also not high in fat or sugar, so it works out for my purposes. We have a little amish farmers market that sells fruit for very cheap... but I'd have to go to the farmers market to buy fruit every week and I'm not sure if I am up for that. Could get pricey, even with the good prices they have.

    As far as cooking lessons, we use ingredients from the cafeteria. You'd be surprised how many things we can get from the cafeteria. I got together with the nutrition manager for the district, who is totally on board with our cooking curriculum. We use Cooking 2 Learn and we use the News-2-You cooking activities, as well as Unique Learning System. Some of them require such obscure ingredients that I don't bother.

    Some weeks, I will send a note home with the kids "Please check off which item you can provide." one of the options is "I do not wish to send in any items at this time." (I make it more like "I don't feel like sending stuff in" rather than "I can't send stuff in." But, I know the reason. All of my kids are free lunch so I do know that most of this is a hardship. But, whatever I don't get checked off, I check with the cafeteria, then whatever they don't have, my aides and I will work out to bring in (usually like something very small - garlic powder (shaken from the canister and then taken back home) - or a bag of frozen corn, etc.

    I do think that this is a hidden part of the curriculum that is often fogotten in autism programs. Both cooking (functional skills) and reinforcement - are such integral parts of the program. Why will they buy me the $300 cooking 2 learn curriculum, but then not give me a budget for the needed supplies?

    Why will they make my kids have the latest lunch because we're the autistic class, but then not give me the means to give them a snack? (I know that I, as a grown adult, cannot wait until 1PM to eat lunch without a snack...)

    And last of all, how do they expect me to get my kids using PECS, if I have nothing to entice them with?

    These are all good questions. I think that places like Donorschoose are great - but the unfortunate thing is the overhead cost of Donorschoose, not all of the money is going to the kids, part of it goes to the organization to keep it running (which is great, but wouldn't it be nice if people could give you $500 and you got to have all of it, not just 80% of it?)

    That's all for now... I'm back from Hawaii!
    Booo!
     

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