One of the best pieces of advice we were ever given by a therapist remains with us today. It wasn’t about how to handle emotionally prickly people, or how to fill out the next grand form. It was all about how to encourage our child. And it came in the form of a box.
Let me introduce to you the “Best Box”.
As most parents throughout time, behavior modification often eluded us. That’s fancy talk for how to get our kids to be the darlings they truly are inside. For those on the Autism Spectrum, rewarding positive behavior in a tangible way works. This is where the Best Box comes into play.
photo by: christiem
In short, the Best Box is a…box (No, really. Had you for a moment, right?). Inside this small box are treasures that are awarded when appropriate. Also inside the box is a points card, which eventually adds up to a super special prize. It’s really cool!
Ready to get started? Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Which behaviors are awarded and who has the privilege of awarding them
- What the points card is all about
- How to make the box and points card
- What actually goes into this box
photo by: tlloyd
Initially, the “B” in Best Box stood for “brave”. We switched it up to “Best”, as being brave wasn’t the only thing we wanted to encourage. It’s up to you which behaviors to celebrate, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Trying a new food (or anything “new”, for that matter)
- Being polite in a difficult situation (or any situation…)
- Saying, “Thank you,” or “Please,” without prompting
- Successfully completing a chore (without complaining)
- Learning a new skill
- Playing well with others
- Holding it all together when he’d normally have a meltdown
Remember, this box is fluid, and behaviors encouraged now should become habit, replaced by new ones to encourage down the road. In other words, if saying, “Please,” at dinner is now habit, reward that behavior with a smile instead of a prize. Another key point is that once a prize is verbally awarded, no backsies, no matter if an outburst soon follows. He’s earned it. It’s his. Deal with the outburst, etc., on its own. These prizes are only awarded by mom or dad (or whoever is the child’s main caregiver.) Sure, others can suggest she deserves one, but mom and dad hold these keys!
The Points Card
Just like a loyalty card when ten stamps will earn you a freebie or discount, this card works along the same lines. For each prize awarded, note it on the card. This can be via a stamp, paper punch, sticker or smiley face. Also sign and date it to keep track. Once ten awards have been recorded, she is eligible for a bigger prize! Once the super prize is given, be sure to note that on the card, too.
Making the Best Box and Points Card
One of the most important considerations when making this box is to include your child in on the process. This is not the time for mom to pull out all the stops and present her with a glitzy treasure box worthy of a crafter of the year award. This is time to work together or even let her do the designing. Messy is fine, so is a lack of color coordination. The main reason behind this is she needs to “own” it. If she’s spent time on it, she will be more vested in using it.
What you’ll need:
- A wooden box from the craft store or an opaque plastic shoe-sized box (or smaller), or a photo storage box (found at most craft stores).
- Art supplies
Wooden boxes are great because they tend to be sturdy and take easily to paint, ink and other wonderful decorations. Photo storage boxes are also great as they are readily available and economical. In fact, if crafting isn’t his thing, he can pick out a box and simply put his name (or “Best Box”) on it and call it a day. Both are also naturally opaque, as opposed to plastic, making it impossible to peek! And trust me, she will try to peek. If wood is not an option, plastic is ok, too. Just make sure you can’t see the contents from the outside.
It couldn’t be simpler. Take an index card and draw lines to create ten spaces, usually two rows of five. Each time a prize is awarded, date it along with adding a positive visual (as mentioned above). Going to the trouble of signing it instead of merely stamping it makes it harder for kids to “cheat”. Not that kids would ever do that…
Once the box is dry and decorated, place the card inside of it. This is where the card lives.
photo by: valike
What to Put Inside
The possibilities are endless, but there are general guidelines. These should be dollar-type items or coupons for something like a candy bar, “get out of laundry free” card, small toy or even cash. Your personal budget will set the stage. Keep in mind that the super prize is typically 10 times the value of any prize in the box. We usually spend about $10-20 on the big prize, for example. That would make individual items about a buck or two. Be sure to have at least three different items for him to choose from, as choice is a key element. Also, add new items from time to time to those already in the box, to keep it exciting.
Thanks for Reading,