Friday, February 3, 2012

Benefits of a Sticker Reward Calendar

In our experience with Asperger's syndrome, we as parents, have tried many different ways to reward our son's positive behavior at school. We would take him swimming or to the park or maybe buy him a special gift. The only drawback in this type of reward system is, that if your child goes on a run of rough days in class, it's not fair to deny all the fun things you could do together. After much research and learning, we found a fantastic tool that we've easily implemented. We use a sticker reward calendar. Each child with autism/Asperger's might be different in what works and what doesn't, but a reward calendar is a cheap idea and can be very effective in improving and promoting good behavior.

You can use any calendar you like. At first, we just used a regular calendar we had, but shortly after, we decided to get a more child friendly calendar. When we had a regular calendar, Jacob noticed, but wasn't that impressed. But when we got him a Twisted Whiskers calendar, he really took notice and became interested. So we do recommend a cartoon or a sports calendar. They're relatively inexpensive and you can find one with any character or team on them. I've seen Sponge Bob, Looney Tunes and Harry Potter on calendars, so finding your child's favourite should be easy.

Then we went to a dollar store and found hundreds of stickers we could use. You should however, try to find smaller stickers. That way you get more for your money and they'll fit into the squares on the calendar. Right now we have some star stickers and some little animal stickers. During the Christmas holiday we had some snowmen and snow flake ones. There are literally thousands of them and each dollar store carries different styles, so the sticker choices are endless.

What we did was, we installed a cork bulletin board in our hallway. Not only do we put important items for us on it, but it also holds Jacob's stickers and calendar. We just hung the calendar at Jacob's height for easy reaching. Then we divide each school day in half. The left half of the square is the morning and the right half is the afternoon. When Jacob comes home for lunch, if he had a good morning, he'll get 1 sticker. Then when he comes home after school, he gets 1 more if he had a good afternoon. So it's possible to get 2 stickers a day. If your child doesn't come home for lunch, you can still reward them with 1 or 2 stickers, depending on their day. During a week, there's a possible 10 stickers to achieve. So then you can create an overall reward program that's visible for your child.

Number of Stickers (earned during week) Reward

5 or 6 Family dinner at their favourite restaurant

7 or 8 Dinner as above and movie night

9 or 10 Dinner, movie and a toy

These are just examples of rewards that you can use. You can go on a picnic or to the park if you're on a budget. The choices with rewards are very open. You can even take the rewards a step further and develop monthly rewards. During a month, there's approximately 20 school days or 40 stickers. If your child has a great month, maybe you could speak with their school about a special reward to help solidify the good class room behaviour.

We noticed that Jacob's behaviour began to improve almost immediately after beginning a sticker reward calendar. When a child sees their calendar fill up with shiny stickers, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and it can help them in wanting to have good and productive days while at school. And for those of us with kids with autism/Asperger's, we know how easy their day can be off, so if a sticker reward calendar helps, then it's definitely worth it.

Not only special needs children can benefit from a sticker reward calendar. This type of reward system can work with any child, boy or girl. When Jacob was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 6 we were shocked. But the diagnosis did in fact, explain a lot about Jacob's behaviour and issues at school. A sticker reward calendar was an effective way to modify his behaviour positively. Now that we've been using it for 2 school years, we can't imagine not having it. We've even began giving a new calendar to Jacob as a Christmas gift each year. This way he'll always have a new calendar for back to school. The entire calendar/sticker purchase is under $20 and that's with a years worth of stickers. So try it out, and if it works, it sure beats buying all those Nintendo DS games.

My website is called Jim's Autism Blog and together, my wife and I express our feelings associated with the ups and downs of raising a child with Asperger's syndrome. Here's the link to our blog

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