Using Prompts in ABA Therapy
Welcome to our ABA therapy technique series where we explore the different techniques used by ABA therapists. In this article we will learn about prompts.
What are Prompts?
A prompt is a verbal or physical cue that a therapist uses to encourage a child to engage in a desired behavior or response.
In this article we are going to explore the different types of prompts and define when they should be used.
But first let’s discuss the benefits that prompts offer.
How do prompts benefit a child’s learning?
There are several benefits to using prompts in a child’s learning:
- Prompts provide a scaffold for learning: Prompts can help a child build upon their existing knowledge and gradually increase their understanding of a new concept. They can also help a child overcome any initial confusion or lack of confidence when trying to learn something new.
- Prompts can increase a child’s independence: By gradually fading out prompts as a child becomes more proficient in a skill or concept, a teacher or parent can help a child become more independent in their learning.
- Prompts can increase a child’s engagement: If a child is feeling frustrated or disengaged, prompts can help re-engage them in the learning process and keep them motivated to learn.
- Prompts can help with assessment: Prompts can be used to assess a child’s understanding of a skill or concept, as well as to provide feedback on their progress.
Now that you understand what prompts are and how they can benefit a child’s learning, let’s discuss the prompt hierarchy.
What is the Prompt Hierarchy?
The Prompt Hierarchy is a framework for providing increasing levels of support to a learner as they work to master a new skill or concept. It is based on the idea that as a learner becomes more proficient in a skill or concept, the amount of support and guidance they need should gradually decrease.
The Prompt Hierarchy consists of several levels of prompts, starting with the most supportive and gradually decreasing in support as the learner progresses. Here is an example of a typical Prompt Hierarchy:
Full physical prompt: This is the most supportive level of prompts, in which the teacher or parent physically assists the learner in completing the task or skill.
Partial physical prompt: In this level, the teacher or parent provides some physical assistance, but the learner is still required to do some of the work themselves.
Gestural prompt: In this level, the teacher or parent uses a nonverbal gesture or signal to remind the learner of what to do or to provide encouragement.
Verbal prompt: In this level, the teacher or parent provides verbal encouragement or guidance, but the learner is still required to complete the task on their own.
Faded prompt: In this level, the teacher or parent provides minimal or no prompts, and the learner is expected to complete the task independently.
The goal of the Prompt Hierarchy is to gradually fade out the prompts as the learner becomes more proficient in the skill or concept, ultimately leading to independent learning. It’s important to use the Prompt Hierarchy appropriately and to continuously assess a learner’s progress to determine the appropriate level of prompts to use.
Types of Prompts
Below are some examples of common prompts:
Gestural Prompt: A gestural prompt is an instruction or cue that is given through a physical gesture, such as a nod or a pointing finger, instead of words.
Spatial Prompt: A spatial prompt is when you put the correct choice closer to the child than the incorrect choice.
Full Physical Prompt: A full physical prompt involves the use of touch to physically guide the student to complete a task or action.
Partial Physical Prompt: A partial physical prompt is a type of prompt that involves minimal physical contact, such as a light touch on the arm or shoulder.
Verbal Prompt: A verbal prompt is an instruction or cue that is given verbally. This can be in the form of a question, statement, or direction.
Visual Prompt: A visual prompt is an instruction or cue that is given through a visual image such as a picture or diagram.
Positional Prompt: A positional prompt is an instruction or cue that is given by positioning the student’s body in a certain way in order to complete a task or action.
Sequential Prompt: A sequential prompt is when a therapist and child work on the easier tasks first before working on the more difficult tasks.
When you should not use prompts
There are some situations in which using prompts may not be appropriate or may not be effective. Here are a few examples:
When a child has already mastered a skill or concept: If a child has already mastered a skill or concept, using prompts may not be necessary and may even be confusing or demotivating for the child. It’s important to continually assess a child’s progress and to adjust the level of support and prompts accordingly.
When a child is not interested in the task: If a child is not interested in a task, prompts may not be enough to engage them and may not be effective in helping them learn. In these cases, it may be necessary to find a way to make the task more relevant or engaging for the child.
When a child is experiencing too much frustration: If a child is experiencing a lot of frustration with a task, using prompts may not be helpful and may even increase the child’s frustration. In these cases, it may be necessary to break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps or to provide additional support and guidance.
When prompts are used excessively: If prompts are used too frequently or for too long, a child may become reliant on them and may not develop the independence and self-motivation needed to learn on their own. It’s important to use prompts appropriately and to gradually fade them out as a child becomes more proficient in a skill or concept.