Intrinsic Motivation (Follow the Child)

  • Extrinsic motivation reduces task interest and can undermine independent learning by making the individual dependent on the source of the reward (e.g. the teacher). This results in an individual who is less able to source information themselves. Extrinsic motivation leads to superficial learning that does not generalize across contexts or situations (Shirley, 1992)
  • We pay more attention to information we are interested in and this leads to more powerful, long-term learning (Shirley, 1992).
  • Children with autism’s difficulty with sustaining attention on an imposed task may be more due to the motivational contingencies of the task rather than to impairment in their ability to sustain attention (Garretson, 1990).
  • Children with autism may be difficult to test using standardized measures but improving motivation may significantly enhance their testing performance (Koegel, 1997).


  • Garretson, H. B., Fein, D., & Waterhouse, L. (1990). Sustained attention in children with autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 20(1), 101-114.
  • Koegel, L. K., Koegel, R. L., & Smith, A. (1997). Variables related to differences in standardized test outcomes for children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27(3), 233-243.
  • Shirey, L.L. “Importance, Interest and Selective Attention.” In The Role of Interest in Learning and Development edited by K.A. et al Renninger. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc, 1992. p. 281-296


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