If anyone ever tells you it's "unfair" to give "special treatment" (accommodations, rewards, etc.) to students with special needs, just show them this graphic. It will convey the point better than any wordy explanation: "Equality doesn't mean justice." This would be great to purchase, print, and display prominently.
This Pinterest page is chock-full of ideas for rewarding students. I especially like the "Classroom Rewards that Won't Cost You a Penny" pin from the Adventures of a Schoolmarm blogger. She prints the rewards on paper coupons, then places them in a small photo album for students to flip through and choose their reward. If you're a high school teacher, you already know that they love rewards, too (game time/run an errand/no homework night).
Dr. Ellen Litman, a Psychologist with many years of experience, explains that low levels of dopamine in the brains of children with ADHD mean they are always looking for stimulating activities in order to boost dopamine. "Boring" activities don't boost the levels, so they scan the environment for more stimulating things to do. She says that all "behavioral rewards" (food, exercise, etc.) increase dopamine levels. This might explain why these learners need more frequent rewards in the classroom.
The results of this study are interesting and relevant for those of us who teach children with ADHD. Background information is given about a "dysfunctional motivational pathway" that makes rewards necessary to persist in unappealing tasks, but the nature of those rewards was surprising. Social rewards (positive facial expressions) were significantly more motivational in boys with ADHD than in those without ADHD. Maybe smiles and praise are even more important for these children.
This is another wonderful tool from Intervention Central. The check box at the bottom of the page allows you to choose between Elementary and Middle/High School students for reward ideas. Some of the middle/high ideas are earning a ticket to draw for a prize, choosing seating in the class or cafeteria, and assisting a coach/teacher. For elementary, some ideas are choosing a read-aloud book and choosing a group recess game.
I really like the idea of mystery motivators because they allow the teacher to avoid singling out any one student. Of course, some students with learning disabilities will require individual motivators, but mystery motivators are still a great idea, because everyone benefits. This article explains preparations and procedure for using mystery motivators in a very precise and detailed manner.
If you find yourself running out of ideas for positive reinforcers, this database would be a good place to check. Scroll down to the bottom left of the page to choose from communication, environment, instruction, motivation, self-management, or task categories. For instance, under "motivation,"there is a suggestion to offer the student a choice of ways to demonstrate mastery of the learning material. This database would be valuable to general education teachers with inclusion classes.