Operating A Reward Shop With PDA Pupils In A Primary Setting

I have tried lots of reward schemes over the years. I believe in praise. I believe in rewarding effort. I believe in recognising how hard things are.

If a member of staff has gone beyond the call of duty to help me I buy them a gift. If the children in my class do things that go beyond what I expect or that are particularly hard for them, I like to reward them too.

I don’t see rewards as a way of making children conform, of changing their behaviour or of badgering them to do a specific task. I see them as a way of showing a child I recognise how hard they have tried today.

For young people with Pathological Demand Avoidance rewards can easily become a double edged sword. For this reason using a shop based system is my preferred method because it offers the greatest flexibility and therefore has the lowest chance of causing unnecessary problems.

So how does it work?

The answer is it is very simple.

Pupils earn five tokens per class for being in the classroom and using good classroom behaviour. To earn these stars they do not have to engage in any work related activities and can completely follow their own agenda, they just need to be in the room for the majority of the lesson. (A reregulation break or nipping to do a quick job is totally fine). These tokens recognise that some days just walking into the classroom is a huge accomplishment. And even if tasks aren’t attempted the auditory part of the lesson is often absorbed.

A further five tokens can be earned per lesson if the set tasks are accomplished. This means that even on those days when walking into the classroom is too hard we can recognise and reward work that is completed. 

What kind of rewards are used?

I like to use a wide mix of tangible and non-tangible rewards, and a big mix of different value rewards. From tiny things that can be ‘bought’ after one successful lessons to larger special interest related items that allow pupils to realise that saving for something they really want can be really rewarding. 

Does it need to be expensive?

Not at all, a reward shop can cost as little or as much as you would like. Great zero cost options are things like, computer or iPad time, extra playtime, or a film afternoon with a friend. Thinking about the things your pupils enjoy will give you a list of both small and larger value options. Even better, why not ask your pupils what they would like to earn and how they would rank those things in terms of value. 

Is there anything else that’s important to know?

Reward schemes should always be operated carefully. Particularly important is to never take away  tokens that have already been earned. Also consider carefully how tokens are rewarded, they should be used as a positive reward for doing well, not as a battering ram when things aren’t going to plan.