A MILESTONE IN THE STUDY OF NATURE’S BENEFITS: From Intuitive Understanding to Overwhelming Evidence

Thirty years ago, I was a newly hired faculty member in the Department of Special Education at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Many of my graduate students were working as teachers in classrooms with young children with disabilities. Teaching strategies, at the time, were based in part on behavior modification principles. This approach uses positive and negative reinforcements to develop desired skills and behaviors. For young children with and without disabilities, using language to communicate is one such behavior that needs to be developed. Teachers and parents sometimes use candy, praise, or certain privileges (such as screen time) as positive reinforcements or incentives. I saw a different kind of incentive during one of my visits to a preschool classroom. A mother had just arrived with her three-year-old daughter who had autism. It was early November, and the child had not spoken a word in school since she first started in September. As the mother stopped to talk to the teacher, the child walked over to a table where eggs had been incubating for the past several weeks. As the child watched, a chick started pecking its way out of an egg. The child ran back to her mother, grabbed […]