One of my favorite gadgets we use at InKids is a MotivAider. These nifty behavior change tools have a variety of applications. It was created by a clinical psychologist and has been around for about 25 years. Originally designed to prompt individuals to change habits by repeating a particular motivational phrase whenever it vibrated, this tool is invaluable when used to modify behavior for people on the autism spectrum.
What is a MotivAider?
MotivAiders look like little pagers (remember those?) that you can clip to yourself, and they vibrate on a specified time interval that you set. It’s like a silent, vibrating timer on a continuous loop. You can adjust the interval to seconds or minutes and control whether it vibrates on a set schedule (i.e. every 10 seconds) or on a random schedule (i.e. a random time up to the time you select). You can also change the vibration intensity and the length of time the MotivAider will vibrate. So if you set it to vibrate every 30 seconds then, every 30 seconds it will vibrate for a brief period and then continues to vibrate every 30 seconds until you turn it off.
How can you use MotivAiders for behavior change?
There are a few ways to use these great gizmos for increasing or decreasing target behaviors.
MotivAiders can be used to help remind you to collect data on a set schedule. The data collector easily sets the MotivAider to the frequency with which they wish to take data and then, when the device vibrates, record data. For example, if you wanted to take data on how well a child is paying attention during an activity, you could set it for 20-second intervals and each time the MotivAider vibrates, you look at the child and record a + if they are paying attention or a – if they are not.
This type of data collection is called momentary time sample, and it is a kind of interval recording commonly used in applied behavior analysis (ABA). You can also use it to take partial and full interval data to record whether a child is engaging in a behavior for part of or all of an interval. Teachers required to collect data in public school in the context of a child’s individualized treatment plan (ITP) or behavior intervention plan (BIP) may find these gadgets particularly useful!
These devices are ideal for data collection because they do the work of keeping the time and reminding you to take data so that your attention can be on your task or individual with whom you are working instead of on the clock.
A major component (and arguably the most important) of ABA is reinforcement. The Principle of reinforcement states that you can increase a behavior by delivering a reinforcer directly after a behavior has occurred. This principle is extremely effective in increasing desirable behaviors such as sitting appropriately, keeping hands to self, etc.
Ideally, when increasing a behavior with reinforcement, you would reinforce the behavior after every occurrence. But sometimes that is not easy when the action is continuous (i.e. paying attention, staying in your set, etc.) or when you have a lot of other things going on that require your attention (teachers and parents). You can set the MotivAider to remind you to reinforce a child, again taking the work of remembering off of you so you can focus on other things.
We like to use the “Catch them Being Good” method—when the MotivAider vibrates, find one thing the child is doing appropriately and deliver praise. This deceptively simple method is hugely effective for kids on the spectrum as well as typically developing kids making it an invaluable strategy for parents with multiple children as well as teachers managing a classroom.
Teachers can use these gadgets to remember to deliver reinforcement as part of a child’s ITP or BIP or simply as an effective classroom management tool—When the MotivAider vibrates find a child doing something right and call them out with praise in front of the rest of the class! Make it a goal to find a new child each time to appreciate.
One of my favorite ways to use a MotivAider is to teach an individual to self-monitor their behavior. You can clip the device to the person and teach them to deliver a token or take data when it vibrates.
For example, I’ve taught a child to score a + if they were on task and a – if they were off task when the MotivAider vibrated. I’ve used it to teach a child to monitor their behavior of paying attention by setting it for 30-second intervals. When it vibrated, the child had to touch a green card if he was paying attention or a red card if he was not.
You can also use it as a simple reminder to engage in a behavior. For example, I’ve had kids that can pay attention without looking at the teacher or board, but sometimes, they miss critical information when they aren’t looking, or the teacher feels like they aren’t paying attention if they aren’t looking. So I give the child a MotivAider, and whenever it vibrates, the child will look up at the teacher/board for 3 seconds.
These are just some of the ways you can use these delightful devices when working with kids on the spectrum, typical kids or even yourself! For more information on MotivAiders, including other uses and ordering information, visit their website.
** This is an independent review of this product and was not solicited nor was InKids compensated for the review. Including Kids is not affiliated with Behavioral Dynamics or MotivAiders ® in any way, we just love this product and wanted to share it with you!**
Nichole ODonnell is a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst and serves as the Community Outreach Director for Including Kids. Since beginning her work at Including Kids in 2007, Nichole has worked with children, adolescents and adults as a direct-care therapist, inclusion shadow, Case Supervisor, Reading Specialist, Project Manager, and Community Outreach Director. Nichole has a passion for teaching social skills and executive functioning skills and for sharing her knowledge with parents, staff and the community.