What’s Your MO? (Motivating Operations)
Motivating Operations are quite simply the ‘motivations’ behind a certain behavior. It is what evokes you to do something or stops you from doing something.
Motivating Operations are the motivations that encourage or discourage certain behaviors. Their purpose is to enhance or reduce the reinforcement value. It could impact the effectiveness of a certain event or stimulus in its role as reinforcer. It also serves to modify the frequency of the reinforced behavior resulting from a specific stimulus.
Types of Motivating Operations
MOs can be AO (Abolishing Operations) or EO (Establishing Operations), depending on whether they decrease or increase the value of a reinforcer (be it an event, stimulus or object) and therefore evoke or abate a behavior.
For instance, in the days leading up to the family reunion, a parent may withdrawal access of a favorite toy for a child that they have been promised as a reward for displaying good behavior during the reunion weekend. This enhances the value of the stimulus that is to act as reinforcement (the toy) for the desired behavior (behaving well). In other words, it is an Establishing Operation.
On the flip side, if the parent were to continue to allow the child to play with the favorite toy in the days preceding the reunion weekend, the value of that toy to the child will decline, thereby reducing the effectiveness of it as a reinforcer of good behavior. And that would be an Abolishing Operation.
Motivating Operations can be harder to establish for someone with autism. That is because the intrinsic desire to please or win over other people can be diminished or absent in those with autism. Since the smile or approval of another adult or child may not be a motivator, a conscious effort must be made to identify other MOs.
Even in a general education classroom environment, not all children have the same motivations. Not all are as eager to please. Teachers and behavioral therapist need to make a move to identifying and providing the necessary motivating operation for each child.
Manipulate the environment to provide the right situation for MOs to work. Use your knowledge of MOs to make something a necessity for the child/learner. If you want them to use a fork and spoon appropriately, don’t force random practice sessions through the day. Make using a fork and spoon the only way they will get anything into their tummy at mealtimes. This will make them want to learn to use it, so they can get their food.
If a certain strategy is not working, adapt it so that it becomes desirable. If they are not motivated to do something, then push them towards it by stepping back if required. If a child is not interested in a toy as a motivator stop offering it. When you bring back the toy a month or two down the line, it may be a motivator again.