It’s the beginning of the school year and Johnny, a student with autism, is for the first time in an inclusive class setting. So far, he has integrated well into his 2ndgrade class, though there are still some skills that he needs assistance with. Luckily, he has you, his RBT, right there with him to ensure he inches closer and closer to achieving his goals! One of Johnny’s biggest hurdles in his new class is initiating a written task. Each day, the class is given a worksheet to complete independently. While his classmates complete their work, Johnny instead gets distracted by things in his environment and will not get started on his own.
Our job is to assist Johnny in achieving the skill of independently initiating a written task. How can we help him?
We can use prompting, to help Johnny move into action!
In ABA, prompts are an essential part of teaching new skills. Prompts are specific and strategic types of assistance (help) given to a client in order to increase the likelihood of a correct response. For new skills, we want to start with the most intrusive prompts, and then reduce to less intrusive prompts as our learner achieves success.
Here’s how this may look for Johnny. All learners are different and therefore may start with a different level of prompts.
Physical Prompt – Using physical contact to make sure a skill is demonstrated correctly. This may involve softly guiding Johnny hand-over-hand or simply moving his elbow forward prompting him to pick up his pencil and begin writing his name on the worksheet.
Verbal Prompt – Using only verbal instructions to bring about an accurate response. This may sound like “Johnny, get your pencil and begin your work” or simply “Get started”.
Gestural Prompt – Using a motion to cue the correct response. This may look like pointing to the pencil in order to get Johnny to pick it up and get started with his task.
Positional Prompt – Placing the necessary items in a location that elicits a correct response. This may involve placing his pencil and worksheet in view of Johnny’s eye level.
Visual Prompt – Using text or images to produce the correct response. You may make a visual image of the steps or write them in words for Johnny to reference depending on our learners reading level.
Don’t forget to positively reinforce Johnny’s successes; even when a prompt is used!
The ultimate goal is for you to be able to fade the visual prompt out completely in the future, so there is no prompts needed for Johnny to independently initiate written tasks. In the chance that this doesn’t happen though, you can always return to a previous prompt or try to delay giving the visual prompt to see if Johnny moves closer to independence.
When implemented correctly, prompts are a very valuable tool to development independence for children with autism. In addition, prompting meets the evidence-based practice criteria with five single-subject design studies, demonstrating its effectiveness in the domains of academic and language/communication in all three age groups (i.e., preschool, elementary, middle/high school). See All.