Written by Alana George, BS Clinical Psychology, RBT Student Analyst
“Prompts help behavior occurs so that the teacher can provide reinforcement.”-Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 1987
What is prompting?
Prompting in ABA therapy refers to providing assistance or cues to encourage your child to use specific skills to complete tasks. Prompting your child encourages them to perform a task until they learn how and when to do it on their own. The ultimate goal is for your child to learn how to perform the skill independently in the appropriate situations without needing to be prompted (Applied Behavioral Analysis EDU, 2021). In treatment and learning at home, it is most ideal to use the least intrusive form of prompting to focus teaching on your child’s independence. In order to avoid prompt dependency, we encourage you to use the least intrusive prompting and positive reinforcement when your child engages in tasks independently.
Hierarchy of prompting from most to least intrusive:
This is the most intrusive prompting method in which the learner is manually guided through the entire or partial duration of the task using hand-over-hand help.
Example: Guiding hands to tie shoelaces correctly.
The learner is provided a specific word, sentence, or verbal cue in order to engage in and complete the task. Here attached is a great resource that provides parent tips on how to teach your child to request for wants and needs at home using verbal prompting.
Example: After washing hands, you notice your child still needs to dry them. You provide the verbal prompt: “Dry your hands.”
The learner observes the task is completed correctly in person or through video.
Example: Your child watches you how you put on your zip-up jacket and copies you.
The learner is provided a cue through gestures (pointing, nodding).
Example: Your child is opening a packaged snack. You point to the trash can to indicate to your child to throw the wrapper away correctly.
This is the least intrusive prompting method in which the learner is provided an image, drawing, textual, or any form of written communication to engage and complete a task.
Example: Your child uses a visual schedule to complete making a PBJ sandwich.
How Do I Fade Out My Prompts?
In ABA therapy, Prompts are very important in teaching your child life skills but fading them is just as important. Fading out prompts is crucial in promoting your child’s independence. Prompt fading needs to be planned from the start and an integral and essential component to the behavioral plan created by the behavioral analyst. Prompt fading is significant to teach your child how to complete tasks, such as important life skills (Ex: tying shoes, brushing teeth, self-feeding, etc.). One way to fade out prompting is to use least to most prompting strategies This teaching method can be beneficial because it gives your child the opportunity to be independent by only providing as much prompting as needed. This is a strategy we tend to use naturally. When using this method, ideally the prompts will self-fade on their own. If you are always starting at the least intrusive prompt, your child will have the opportunity to demonstrate independence. As your child begins to learn the task, they will need fewer and fewer prompts to perform it correctly and on their own. For example, your child is learning how to brush their teeth. When first teaching the goal, you want to present the task and allow your child to attempt to complete any steps on their own. Based on your child’s ability you will prompt accordingly. It is important to understand how much prompting your child needs. If you have any questions regarding how to fade out prompts with your child, you can ask your child’s behavioral analyst during parent training.