Using a Behavior Change Contract to Promote Positive Behaviors with Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig

The concept of a contract to change a behavior and receive desired outcomes is a concept many are familiar with. Today I am interviewing Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig to discuss their new book, Let’s Make a Contract, available in May 2022. Dr. Heward and Dr. Dardig have an incredible professional background and the origin story of this book began with their first book Sign Here in 1973. We are talking about the transformation that book has made over the decades and just how important a lesson in behavior contracts can be for positively impacting families.

What is a Behavior Contract?

A behavior contract is made up of two components. A task to be completed and what completing this task entails, and the reward or reinforcement to be earned from completing this task. These contracts should be a collaborative, written agreement and can be between parent and child, child and teacher, child and behavior analyst, or a combination of any of those. There are some cognitive prerequisites, a child participating should be at least 3 to 4 with an understanding of the language involved in earning a reward for a task. However, there is no age limit. Anyone, at any age can enter into a behavior contract to meet a goal, including setting self goals. 

Monitoring Contracts and Avoiding Mistakes

Dr. Heward and Dr. Dardig do an exceptional job in this book providing clear examples and scenarios to simulate common family and school situations. Behavior Contracts are a research based tool that can change behavior, but they are not a quick fix to solve any problem. When a child and adult enter into a contract, there is work to be done on both sides. It is perfectly okay, and common to have to revisit a contract and make changes if it does not work the first time. Additionally, adults who want to see a goal met or problem solved can fall into the habit of nagging and reminding them about contractual tasks. This is not the answer. Positivity and praise are the key to successful change through behavior contracts.

Let’s Make a Contract is available for preorder on Amazon before its official May release. You can also expect their website with free book resources, to go live at the end of April. This book is full of real life, kid friendly, accessible information and Dr. Heward and Dr. Dardig are truly making the world a better place with their work.

behavior change contract

Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Dr. Jill Dardig is Professor Emerita of Education at Ohio Dominican University where she trained special education teachers for 30 years. She has been a visiting professor at Keio University in Japan, an on-site consultant for a program in Portugal that taught independent living and vocational skills to teenagers and young adults with developmental disabilities, and has presented workshops for teachers and parents in Europe, South America, and Asia. Dr. Dardig has written several books and other publications about and for parents including Involving Parents of Students with Special Needs: 25 Ready-to-Use Strategies (2008). Jill has an A.B. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.Ed. and an Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts.

Dr. William Heward is Professor Emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. He has taught at universities in Brazil, Japan, Portugal, and Singapore and given lectures and workshops in 22 other countries. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Past President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Dr. Heward’s publications include co-authoring the books, Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd ed., 2020) and Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education (12th ed., 2022). Combined sales for these two titles total more than a million copies. Bill has a B.A. from Western Michigan University and an Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts.

Early in their careers, Jill and Bill helped found an early intervention program for children with autism and other disabilities in western Massachusetts. Their 1979 book, Working with Parents of Handicapped Children, was the first textbook designed to facilitate collaboration between teachers and parents with children with disabilities.


  • What is a behavior contract?
  • How old do participants in a behavior contract need to be?
  • Who can do a behavior contract?
  • How long should a behavior contract last?
  • How to avoid negativity surrounding mistakes in contracts?
  • What are common mistakes made with behavior contracts?
  • How contracts can benefit children, parents, families, school settings, and self goals.
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?

Transcript for Podcast Episode:168
Using a Behavior Change Contract to Promote Positive Behaviors with Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number one hundred and sixty eight. I'm your host, Dr. Mary Barbera, and I am thrilled to welcome on the show a married couple. I think this might be our first, well my husband and I were a married couple on the show together, but I am interviewing Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig. And many of you in the who are BCBAs who are in the ABA field will recognize Dr. Bill Heward's name because he is the coauthor of the famous white book Applied Behavior Analysis, now in its third edition. And he also is the author of Exceptional Children An Introduction to Special Education, which is in its 12th edition and between Applied Behavior Analysis and his second book. Combined sales for those two titles total more than one million copies, which is amazing, and they're translated into so many languages, which is it, which is amazing. Now his wife, as is very accomplished as well. Dr. Jill Dardig is the professor emerita of education at Ohio Dominican University, where she trained special education teachers for over 30 years. They are on the show today, Jill and Bill, and they we agreed to call them by their first names to make things easier. They are here to discuss their new book called Let's Make a Contract, which I had the pleasure of reviewing and writing a blurb for this. And it really is a very good ABA tool that is underutilized, and we talk all about what a behavior contract is, who it's for, what age, how long should a behavior contract be written for, and how to avoid nagging and falling back into the slippery slope of if then first work, then get, you know, reinforcement and all the things that could go wrong within behavior contracts we talk about, too. So it was a delight to catch up with Bill and Jill. So let's get to this great episode with Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig.

Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host. Autism Mom, Behavior Analyst, and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: All right. Well, thank you so much, Jill and Bill. I feel kind of weird using your first names, but just for simplicity, we agreed to do that. So thank you so much for joining us today to share your knowledge with our listeners.

Dr. Heward: Thank you for having me. Thanks for having us.

Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig’s Professional Background

Mary: So before we get into like what the topic is and why, why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? We'll go with you, Jill.

Dr. Dardig: I know you've asked other presenters how they fell into autism. I think rice allergy and my name when I was in graduate school in the early 1970s actually were both at UMass Amherst, and we were working for a project that provided services to children who were deaf and hearing impaired. OK? And the first summer I was there, we did an in-service project down at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut. It was a summer program for the kids in their regular school program who needed additional help during the summer. And all the kids were. Well, most of them were moderately to profoundly deaf. And many of them had other additional diagnoses. And my job was to work with one on one with a couple of other kids that had the most severe difficulties. And so my first child that I work with was going to call her Kelly for this podcast. She was seven and a half years old and she was profoundly deaf and also had been diagnosed with autism. So she did. All the stereotypic behavior is rocking, flapping, tooth grinding and so forth. And at that time, you know, I I was a little bit at a loss. I was starting out in the field and I started doing a little research to see what what can I do with this little girl? She had no eye contact whatsoever when I first started working with her. And I think Mark Sundberg pointed out in his podcast, there really wasn't a lot available to read at that time. I mean, this was 50 years ago. Wow. There were there was a little bit a lot of discussion about the causes of autism, and some of their listeners might remember Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, who is a recognized. Physician and his thesis was that no blame it on the mom, the mom is what he called a refrigerator mother and rejected. The child was cold and icy toward the child, and the child just turned inward. So that was sort of part of the prevailing thought. But I did come upon some of the studies that were done by Risley Wolf Lobos and modeled some of my techniques along those lines. I also involved the parents and the other teaching staff at the school. And so to make a long story short, after working with her for three or four weeks, I had been able to establish really strong eye contact using some prompts that I faded some edibles that I also was able to fade. And this skill for this little Kelly was kind of the gateway to her learning sign language to her social skills, to being able to communicate. And the parents were great. I work with them in the home. They were able to generalize some of her new skills to the home. But I only worked with her for the summer and I was able to make a visit in the fall and do a follow up, and she was doing quite well. She still had many autistic like behaviors and she needed a lot of work and communication. But her parents said she was completely different child, too much more sociable, making choices, actively communicating and at a very low level, but still making a breakthrough there. This whole experience to me was so informative because first of all, it introduced me to autism and I found out that people with autism are very interesting people. And the second was using ABA techniques could really teach students with autism, and we could see some pretty dramatic results. And the third was the importance of involving parents because the parents had told me that previously they taken her to psychiatrists and other treatment options. And not only didn't this little Kelly make any progress, the parents didn't know what was being done with her. They were totally excluded. I couldn't even watch what was going on. Yeah. So those things to me were those were very life changing for me and got me really more involved in the special ED field and particularly autism. Wow. I was the only in retrospect. I mean, this is like an occupational hazard for anybody who teaches this little girl would be 57 this year. I would love to know what she's doing, how she's doing, what her life is has turned out to be.

Mary: Wow. So she was she was diagnosed as deaf. And did she actually have the diagnosis of autism back then?

Dr. Dardig: She did. She did.

Mary: Yes, which was very scary because autism was only started to be diagnosed in the 1940s. So all right. Yeah. So that's pretty incredible that she even had that diagnosis, especially being deaf because I have worked with a few deaf students and it's like, you know, a lot of people just like autism, they blame it on the autism. If they're deaf, they blame it on the deafness and to get additional diagnoses, I'm sure at that time was extremely difficult. So yeah, that's really good. And I think I did a podcast. I know I did a podcast where I mentioned the refrigerator mother theory and the history of autism moms, so we can link that in the show notes it's going to be podcast 168. So that's a wonderful story, Jill, and we're going to get more into your background and also your new book with Bill. So Bill, why don't you, our listeners in the ABA field, the behavioral analyst listening and definitely should know your name. So how did you fall into the autism world?

Dr. Heward: Well, I grew up wanting to be a baseball player and still waiting for the Chicago Cubs to call, but I don't think they're going to. I went to college at Western Michigan University, started as a wet behind the ears freshman in 1967. Western was ranked number four Division one baseball at the time. I thought, Well, I'm going to be there for a couple of years and then I'll be in Wrigley Field and say, Well, you know, you got to take some classes. OK. So psychology intro to Psych Psych 150 at the time was taught by Dick Mallott. I still have all six books that that were assigned. We had a reading assignment, a quiz every day. Half of the semester was a rat lab and need to learn to apply these basic principles in that context. And several of the faculty had had projects in the community where students could volunteer, do independent studies and through there. I had my first experience getting to see the potential quality of Life changing, you know, affects of applying these principles, basic principles of behavior with with children, with disabilities. I ended up won't bore you with that story, but somehow I ended up very fortunately as a graduate student at UMass Amherst at the same time. Yes. Jill Dardig was and I had opportunity to have an assistant show up to support my time there in the same project with Jill. And during our second and third years there together, Jill and I had had the opportunity to help found an early intervention program in Western Mass for children. Some were diagnosed with autism. Others with severe behavior challenges and problems. Kids were roughly three to eight three to nine. And this was called Project Change. It began in 1973, just from an historical basis. That's two years before President Ford in July of 75 signed. Today, it's called I.D.E.A.. It was the Education of All Handicapped Children Act which began, you know, modern special education as we know it in the U.S., the requirement of an individual education plan and due process and very importantly, parental involvement, parent and family involvement in my role with the with the program. But about a dozen kids and I was head teacher, I think there were three of us as teachers trying to figure out together what to do half day. And, you know, a preschool early, early intervention program where we're doing our best to apply basic principles of behavior to change some targeted behaviors that would make a difference in those children's lives. Jill. Her role was parent trainer, and Jill had a weekly session where with parents, where they they met in the evening for a couple of hours and schooling them, introducing them to basic principles of behavior. She would do home visits where she'd demonstrate and network with the parents to role play things. And the parents would head to each come at least once a week to observe what we were doing in the in the classroom. So we were all working together to do our best to have, as Joe had said, the importance of parents not just seeing what's being done with their child, but to see how they could potentially use those same teaching strategies to to make a difference in the home. So if you can just tell you a little bit about her experience as a parent trainer, I think that will lead nicely into the rest of our conversation.

Dr. Dardig: I ended up working with the parents. I had a really mixed group over the couple of years I was there. Some of the parents had a high school diploma. Some of them had graduate degrees. Some were blue collar, somewhere professional. So it's a real mix of people. What they had in common was they all wanted to help their kids desperately wanted to help them because piggybacking on to what Bill just said. This was before IDEA and their kids had been basically kicked out of other programs and schools. So there were like at their wits end, you know, we've got to do something. They were highly, highly motivated. And so the other thing is they all were open to trying new things. And when I went through all the ABA principles and strategies, it made a lot of sense to them. It didn't sound like gibberish. It sounded like practical advice. I think parents appreciate practical advice like in your book, Turn Autism Around which I have here.

Mary: Thank you.

Dr. Dardig: You give them specific instructions and strategies for bedtime, for example, for getting a haircut, for going to the dentist or the doctor. Parents appreciate that they don't want. They want something research based, something that works, but they don't want to have to read all the original research. They want to know the application. And so the parents were very successful in doing programs, home programs with their own kids for various behaviors they were working on. And one strategy that they really all liked so much was behavioral contracting, OK? They took to it immediately. It made sense they were able to carry it out with their kids. And I got thinking, How do we? This is such a good strategy, not just for parents who have kids with disabilities, but really for parents of typical kids as well. How do we get this to a larger audience? I was working with maybe six to eight parents at a time in groups. And that's just like, you know, drop in the bucket. So I thought that. Thinking about a children's book, a book of stories that would be set in the context of a home and teach how to use contracting through that vehicle of this children's story. So the parents who read it wouldn't have to go to parent groups. Their kids wouldn't have to be in a particular program. They could read the book and use the forms included in the book and then go from there. And so I collaborated with Bill. By this time, we were dating.

Mary: You were only dating?

Dr. Dardig: Well Yeah. (laughs).

Mary: Well, what are you guys? You guys aren't married?

Dr. Dardig: Oh no, we were. We're married. We've been married for like forty...

Dr. Heward: Forty five, forty five and counting.

Mary: This is still back in the 70s and 80s?

Dr. Heward: Yeah, Yeah Yeah.

Mary: OK, OK. Oh, so you got the idea for for writing a book on behavior contracts. Way back when you were just dating?

Dr. Heward: Seventy three.

Dr. Dardig: Right!

Mary: Wow. Wow. Wow. OK, before we go on about behavior contracts, I just want to stop you for a second. Just because a lot of our listeners, you know, this is a new topic for them. And you know, they might have a toddler just showing signs of autism. They might have a 15 year old with severe autism. And from my experience, which is very little, we are going to talk about your book, which is which I have right here. Let's make a contract. And we are going to talk about behavior contracts, but I don't want to just slide into it because a lot of people might get confused. So I think what comes to mind when I think about this topic and I'm definitely not an expert at this at all. In fact, I can't even think of one instance where I was with a client as a behavior analyst doing a contract. But I do think after reading your really great book and knowing a little while knowing a lot about ABA and a little bit of behavior contract that I do think there needs to be some language, understanding, and cognitive ability of, say, a four year old, maybe three year old, typically developing child. So if you have a and maybe, maybe you can disagree, maybe you want to disagree with that age, but you know, we have to get children to a point where they understand, like if this happens, then this happens and to understand the language around contracts. But I do remember when I was thinking about this topic, I do remember my typically developing son when he was about six running into my room and saying I want and I forget what he wanted. I want x. So I just.... I don't think he could barely write, and maybe he didn't even write anything. Maybe he just scribbled and he presented me with this loose leaf sheet of paper.

Dr. Heward: I love it!

Mary: Like sign here. I mean, literally, he just like, I'm like, This kid's going to be a lawyer, which is not, but the point. But he was very adamant like he got the idea like, we should sign a contract. So basically a behavior contract is just like what Spencer did. He, you know, but it would be developed by the adult here or in collaboration with the kid. Its's a collaboration. Sure, collaboration. So. So why don't we back up just quickly? And I know we definitely want to get back to the story of how this new book. But what age is this for? What is a behavior contract? And, you know, because I do think that if I were going to do a behavior contract right now, I definitely would need this book to guide me even as a seasoned BCBA.

What is a Behavior Contract?

Dr. Heward: Sure. Well, behavior contract has two essential components. The task that is specified clearly what what's entailed in doing the task and then the reward that the child or in the case of a child having a contract with his or her parent. And we talk about that to the reward that comes afterwards. So if a contract specifies, as you said, Mary, and if then relationship contracts are in a a real behavior contract, as were describing in our book is a written agreement. Not necessarily in words, typically in words, but for very young children or children. For whatever reason, don't have the reading skills or a lot of reading skills. There are picture contracts. OK, and sometimes a contract. One of the examples of stories in our book When we get to it, maybe we'll talk can talk a little bit about this. One is a contract to help a young boy with autism get ready for school in the morning, and he has some reading skills and there's some words on it, there's also a visual activity schedule built right into the contract where he can keep track of. So I think Jill would agree what you described about roughly four, maybe three for some kids would be at the at the youngest age, but there's no upper limit. And importantly, both the research, most importantly, the research and then very much both Jills and my experience and working with families and teachers as well. Contracts can be used all the way up through, you know, teenage young adult years. Maybe grandparent has a contract for spending some quality time with the kids, all kinds of applications. OK.

Mary: OK, so let's get back to you, Jill. In terms of this was this book, Let's Make a Contract, which comes out officially in May, but there is a preorder and we can put that in the show notes the link for the preorder on Amazon. Just Google. Let's Make a Contract. It's by both Jill Dardig and William Heward. And you can. You can go ahead and preorder it. But let's talk about how. What was the the first book that you came up with and when did that happen?

The Book Journey: Sign Here to Let’s Make a Contract:
Dr. Dardig: Well, that happened in around was it, 74/75. Bill has a copy right there. It was called Sign Here. You mentioned your son said, Sign here, mom. And so this was actually published by a company called Behavior Delia. Well, Dick Malott and Don Whaley were the publishers. It was just a small publishing house that did ABA material, you might remember. Con Man, Captain ConMan. It was the cartoonish cartoon, a book that taught Abba principles. And so this is kind of right up their alley. And it got a wonderful illustrator for us.

Mary: And so it's that the initial book called Sign Here, a contracting book for children and their parents, was published in nineteen seventy six, five. Yeah, for a very long time ago, and it tells the story of a family. Two parents, three children, both mom and dad, works very busy. Typical family fourteen year old Lynn, ten year old Jeff, and little four year old toddler Pamela. In that story, we did not identify Pamela as having a disability, although she'd be our child and her behavior, she had learned how to play nicely with the pets. She'd pull the dog's ear and tail, and she'd drop her blocks in the fish tank and so forth. So she's a little girl that in our current story, which we've, you know, clearly identified as a young girl with autism spectrum disorders. So the book was published in 76, a second edition and came out in 81. Then the publisher that was doing the second edition, you know, eventually went out of business in around 92. Jill and I got a letter in the mail, reverting all rights to the book back to us and a couple of boxes for the last 30 or 40 copies of it that existed. And you know, we thought, well, that was we had a good run that was neat and figured that was the end of it. And then about five or six years ago, I was at a conference in Romania. An ABA and autism conference. And the organizers and some of the parents I were talking with were saying how much they would. We're looking for ways to just get information out and disseminate effective teaching practices, particularly to the families. And I just remembered Sign Here and I said to them a little bit about the book and I said, Jill and, I will send you a copy and that might be of any interest to you within a year. This is same here in Romanian, and they colorized the pictures. There's a little Pamela dropping box in the first floor. Wow, that's amazing. So the next year I'm at a conference in Moscow, ABAand autism. Here's Russian sign here,

Mary: But they didn't even ask your permission. They just did it.

Dr. Heward: No, no, no, no. Jill and I in each case know we granted the rights to print. So yeah, yeah, yeah,

Mary: Because I know how it can go, you know, and..

Dr. Dardig: It was all legit

Dr. Heward: Italian. The Czech language, Turkish, just in November. It's crazy. It's like Phenix. Rising from the ashes, this is a sign here in Chinese, published by a university press in China just in November and in the spring, two more languages Filipino and Japanese. So about a year ago, Jill and I are saying, Oh my goodness. English is going to be the only language....

Dr. Dardig: Because it was out of print.

Dr. Heward: So we thought, why don't we see if we could find a publisher to work with, to bring back Sign Here and, you know, update it. And we were very fortunate. The publisher found a developmental editor to work with us with great experience in children's books and all. She convinced us, Don't just update it, deconstruct the thing. Blow it up. Let's put it back together and see. And so now we've got stories about one family that four diverse families, two have children with autism spectrum disorders and the first half of the book is Think now you've seen Mary. Are these brief stories written about the fourth grade reading level that a parent....

Mary: And a fourth grade reading level? Just let me tell our listeners like. That's not for fourth grade kids. This is this is when you write a book. When I wrote the verbal behavior approach or turn autism around, editors and the world say you should basically write and like a fifth grade level, you should not use big words like all the professionals out there that you know. Know how I talk in very layman's terms, and you know it, it's not because while I am not used to talking in highly technical terms and when you were talking about like the 70s and the 80s and now, you know, I didn't come on, I didn't even know what ABA was until 1999, when my son was diagnosed with autism. And I really studied it in 2002. So I'm a relative newcomer to the to the ABA world, and because of my nursing background, I've always been much more like, OK, how can I translate this? How can I get this to the parent level and to, you know, to disseminate it as far and wide? So, so not to cut you off, but like the fourth grade level, most people would think, Well, it's is a kid's book. Now is a book for adults to read, but you definitely have to have a lot of collaboration when you do make a contract.

Dr. Dardig: Yeah, right. And we set the book up. As you've probably seen already, the first nine chapters are the children's stories, so the parents can read with the child or an older child who can read could read it by themselves. And the second half is kind of a how to manual so parents can start. Either way, they can read the children's stories, or they can go right to the how to how to make contracts and use them in your family and in the stories. We've for the first several stories we follow kind of a pattern. We present a problem in a family situation. And then the behavioral contract is introduced as a possible as a solution, but it doesn't go well. The first time there's a there's a hitch. And so what the families do is they look at it again. They make some adaptations modifications and they try it again and then it is successful. And so we're trying to communicate to parents that this isn't magic, it's just not easy. There's work that has to go into this. And if things don't go well, the first time you, you make modifications and you try again.

Dr. Heward: The flaws in these initial contracts are the exact same mistakes that we make and in applying a reinforcement technique or or a behavioral contract not specifying the behavior well enough in the first one. So it goes awry. Jeff, the boy, thinks he cleaned his bedroom, but dad says no looks on your desk is still a mess and that hadn't been specified in the first contract.

Dr. Dardig: It is very common situations. We also in the book In the Back, but we have forms contract forms that parents can, can use. But we'll also we also have a companion website so that a parent who's reading the book and wants to print out a couple of contract forms can just go right to the website. It's free and just, you know,

Mary: Do you have the name of the website, or we can link it...

Dr. Dardig: It's

Mary:, and we will link that in the show notes as well. So that's really good. So why don't you take us.....

Dr. Dardig: It's not up and running yet. We're working on web designer, but that it will.

Dr. Heward: We're shooting for the end for mid April end of April to have it on right now.

Mary: Right, OK. So for right, we will put it in the show notes if it works, but if not, maybe we'll just link it or put it down and and revise it once it's live.

Dr. Heward: Sure that'd be great. Thank you.

How to use Let’s Make a Contract in Your Family, Book Examples:

Mary: But so, Bill, why don't you quickly give our listeners like one of the like something specific like you did? And from the book, like, sure, clear how what the what the problem was, what the contract was, what what didn't work about the contract? Maybe something related to a child with autism or some developmental disability so that, you know, our listeners could, you know, kind of put it together?

Mary: Let's talk about that in the story is called "By Myself". It's in the book and this is spot on. This is on page 77. OK. And a single parent, Erica and her 10 year old son, Connor with autism. OK. And here's how we introduced this story each. Each of these stories has a little kind of narrative. Well, a teaser or a trailer, it says. Connor, a fourth grader with autism, is in the same class as Jeff, Perry, and Martina. All these stories are tied together. The families and kids know one another. Connor has trouble getting ready for school, which makes mornings hectic and stressful for him, and his mom. Will a contract to help get their days off to a better start? And the opening illustration shows Erica and Connor, mom and son, and sitting next to her is. Krista, we introduced in this chapter a behavior analyst. We don't go into any technical detail about what that entails. We just said, we say Krista, a behavior analyst who helps kids with their behavior, was visiting Connor and his family. So how are things going? And then mom says it's going pretty well, but mornings are trouble. You know, he doesn't get ready in time and we end up both. They're stressed, and the day's not off to a good start. Here's Krista, the behavior analyst says, Well, I had success using contracts with a lot of the families and children I work with. What do you think? And they talk about it and they come up with. They really kind of end up with a task analysis what would be the steps of getting ready? And they identify four basic steps for Connor, getting dressed, having as breakfast cereal and milk, brushing his teeth, washing his face and being at the door at 7:45 with his backpack on. Connor has some visual reading skills, but they he's also had success using some visual activity schedule talks about taking little photos of him. He can. He loves Legos. So the reward is earning this little Lego characters and he has a Lego that he can attach by Velcro in the morning to keep, OK, I've gotten dressed. What do I do next and so forth? And then down here a little Lego stickers. We call this a task record a visual way to take data, really to see both for the child and parent, how is the contractor going. And that one works out pretty well at the end of the piece. And each story we have what we call, let's talk questions. And it's just three or four things to kind of conversation starters to kick start. A parent might discuss with their child and hear it says, What are your mornings? What are mornings like at your house? What were mornings like for Connor and his mom before the contract? Do you think the photos on Connor's contract helped him? How did Connor feel when he got himself ready for school? And then I could do just one more. Our last story continues This is a second story with Connor and his mom and now mom Erica and behavior analyst Krista are meeting with Janelle Gardner. These are fictional stories, but they're based on, you know, our experiences and, you know, a conglomeration of many families. We've had an opportunity to learn with and from that. So we I saw the teachers there as well. And and they talk about mom reports the Conners kind of Sad, he comes home from school often, and he says, I don't have friends, so I wish I had more friends. And so the three adults, they talk about how they might help him with that. And they identify having conversations with classmates. Try to help him learn to initiate and hold the conversation. And so again, in behavior analysis, special ed speak, it's really a task analysis. There's no technical language whatsoever in the book, but what's identified on the contract are these four things. So the task is talk to another student. When do you do this? Each day at school, during lunch, recess, free time or group activities? How well? This is a critical part of a behavior contract of helping both child and parent agree on what the task entails. Practice three to five minutes with students selected by the teacher. Start a conversation with another student. Tell Miss Gardner. That's his teacher. How the talks went. Take Miss Gardner's note home to mom and report to mom. So what we've got here really is a home school contract where teacher, family, behavior analyst all collaborating on this contract to help Connor goals to make friends. But it's a step towards that to have have conversations. And that story ends like a happy ending, and he jumps off the bus and his mom's crying, and he says, Oh, Perry invited me to his birthday party, and he likes baseball just like I do and have to get baseball in there. Yeah, yeah.

Mary: So that's great. I think that helps our our listeners and a lot of people will just be listening. Bubble is showing some examples from the book, so if you want to hop on and actually watch. Subpar gas or fast forward it, so you can see what he's showing, that's helpful too sometimes, but I think you did a good job of explaining. So even if people are riding in their car or exercising, they'll be able to get the idea. So with all of your contracts, though, you do have the child and the adults both sign right?

Dr. Dardig: Hmm. Except we do have one chapter where the young boy makes a self contract and signs for for, you know, both lines because he's the one is motivated. He wants to improve a skill which is a mathematical skills, a fourth grader also. And that's the only case. I think we have a the self-conscious. We're trying to show in the book that its contracts are not only reserved for bad behavior, or problems. If you have a goal, a behavioral goal, some skill you want to learn, you can use contract for that as well.

Tools and Strategies for Contract Making:

Mary: Yeah. And I was thinking as I was looking at the book because you sent me a copy, which I appreciate that, you know, on page 104, where you are talking about the contract to make friends and talk. He's checking off or somebody is checking off and next thing off. And I was thinking, this really goes along with self-monitoring, which is another ABA technique that we really never discussed. But you know, basically if you are at the language ability and the cognitive ability that you can actually mark off if you want to lose weight writing down what you ate and checking it off and weighing and measuring your food or weighing measuring yourself that at a certain interval, you know if you set your mind to it. And I'm glad you mentioned the the self contract. You could change your behavior, but it is going to rely. And if you don't write it down and you don't measure it, it's not going to improve. One other question about that I have a couple questions is I see this is like this contract, at least on this paper goes for like three weeks. Is there? You know, I find that if it's just a contract forever, it's not going to work so. So what is the time limit and does that depend on the behavior and and the reinforcement?

Dr. Dardig: It depends on the behavior and the reinforcer, just as you're saying, we don't see contracts as a permanent solution or not. It's a transition to get you from point A where you're struggling or you have a goal to point B where you're doing better, you're doing well. And then the idea is to phase out the contract. So it's a relatively short term solution to a problem, but we'll have greater effects that can be generalized into the future for future gains.

Dr. Heward: So there are instances where it makes sense for a contract. Both parties agree it's a time limited contract to begin with for a particular reason to meet a goal or something's going to happen in a certain time and in one of the chapters in the second half of the how to do it parts for. For parents, we go, well we go through pretty good detail with another new example. That section begins with what is contracting? How might it benefit a family? What are the parts of the contract? And then the next three chapters are selecting tasks for contracts, choosing rewards, writing contracts. But the chapter that follows is how to get a contract off to a good start. Here's some troubleshooting ideas for when when a contract doesn't work, as you had hoped or planned or wished. And then that ends with how to fade out contracts. So yes, we we we view it. In most every case, it can be a temporary intervention.

Mary: And the other question I have is what we talked way back in the beginning of the show about if then you know, you do your work, then you get this. And I just created a mini course that I'm going to talk about. Actually, next week in the podcast is not quite available yet, but it's called no more time out and it is positive parenting without threats, bribes or punishment. And I one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of first work or do your tokens and then you you get to escape from us. And if then is because then people like, I could see this being where, you know, I made the contract, you know, reminding them of the reinforcer kind of arguing with them that, you know, the room is not clean. So how do you avoid that slippery slope? Because we are and I know you are both completely positive and you want to have a positive relationship, positive procedure. So how do you get not into that threatening mode with contracts?

Dr. Dardig: Well, for one thing, we do have a chapter where exactly exactly what you're talking about happens. The kids have a contract kind of contracts with their parents. They're doing really well. And parents continue to say, remind them and nag them and carpet them, do this. You didn't do it. Remember to do it. Have you done it yet? All of the kinds of things that we're all thinking with our kids. And the chapter makes the point of this isn't helpful. So what the kids do is turn the tables on their parents and they have a contract with the parents so that instead of nagging them, reminding them they thank them, they praise them for doing their tasks. And I think that chapter will and also some material, we have the back of the book. We'll communicate to parents. This is this is positive. Put this in place. Let it go. Use praise. Positive. The nagging is just going to complicate the situation and put a negative spin on the contract for you and your kids. So it's hard, it's hard. I mean, we're parents, grandparents, it's hard to control yourself, sometimes tough job. It's a tough job.

Mary: But I think it just goes back to kind of the the whole philosophy of giving five to eight positives to every negative. We did do a podcast interview with three podcast host from ABA inside track, ABA... I think I'm getting that right. But anyway, it was on Glenn Latham's work of positive parenting and behind the schoolhouse doors eight skills every teacher needs. So I think we should link that in. The show notes too, because that's one of your objections to getting in and using this book and and trying to get contracts. I think you need to be positive and and next week I'm going to talk about no more time out and no more threats and bribes and punishment. And I think that will make sense as well. But I do see that happening a lot. So when people want to use, if then I'm like, We're not doing enough, we're not positives to do.

Dr. Heward: You have not only a recurrent theme in the stories, but in our in our little introduction to the book, Jill and I, we try to make our best to make two points. One is we view contracting as it as a teaching strategy. As Jill said, this is not just some intervention because something your child doing or not doing bothers you. And as that strategy will be most effective, has the best chance of of working if it's collaborative. So this whole, all of these stories, it's not. Parents have identified a problem. They bring a set the kid down and say, you know, we read a book, tells us how to make a here it is, kid sign here like that. This is what we're going to. Not at all. And so we really do our best in the introduction and throughout the book and particularly in the stories to show how as a collaborative, as the family, as a family system, you've got to you've got a really good chance of this, of this being effective and not just effective, having fun with it. And another point we make at the beginning and we close the book we have is this isn't the silver bullet for every problem that and challenge that every, every family has. This is a solid research based strategy that has more than half a century of research behind it. And it's a good bet we really think of families put these. What we're suggesting? Give it a try. At the very least, they'll learn a lot more about one another and their family relationships.

Dr. William Heward and Dr. Jill Dardig on the Turn Autism Around Podcast:

Mary: Yeah. Well, I read the whole book is excellent. I think it's a unique book. It's written in a different format and lots of examples. And I will be, you know, definitely recommending the book going forward. And maybe I'll I'll look at the contract on your own thing and see if I can implement that because I think the more we focus on improvement, improvement of ourselves, of the situations, whatever situation we're in, the better. So we are going to have to wrap it up. It's been a pleasure to get to know you both better. Before I let you go, part of my podcast goals are not to just help the kids, but help the parents and professionals that are listening be less stressed and lead happier lives. So do each of you have a self-care tips or stress reduction management tools that you use that you might be able to recommend?

Dr. Heward: I've got several that I'm not sure you can put on air..

Mary: Well we can put anything on the air, and if not, we'll cut it out. '.

Dr. Dardig: Well, to me, I would say, I mean, you're not alone, parents. Whether you have a child with a disability, without a disability, you're going to have bumps in the road and things aren't going to turn out the way you want them to, necessarily. But you're not alone. Just keep trying. That's what we do. We have done. We're still doing it. We have adult children and little grandchildren, and we know we're not the only ones to experience problems. So to me, that's kind of comforting. Do you have any?

Dr. Heward: Well, you can make a lot of mistakes. I speak from personal experience here. You can make a lot of parenting mistakes to the point where you're where your wife says, you know, read your own damn book, that's chapter whatever. So that's kind of, Skinner said. There's levels of knowing, right? And too, but you can make a lot of mistakes, but keep your eye on the ball and just keep plugging and keep your heart in there and keep pressing the lever key. How can the kids have some time for yourself? You'll be all right.

Mary: Well, I think you both are making the world a better place. So thank you so much for sharing your time and your expertize with us. It's been a true pleasure.

Dr. Dardig: Thank you so much.

Dr. Heward: Thank you, Mary.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at, where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to for all the details, I hope to see you there.