Sometimes when teaching our students, we need to give them the correct answer, this is called a prompt.
A common occurrence in ABA therapy is prompting. A prompt is a supplemental teaching aid that ensures a correct response from a child. When we are teaching programs and skills with the individuals we work with it’s essential they are not feeling frustrated or set up for failure. To facilitate this we will use prompts, especially if a skill is new or unknown.
When we teach a new target, we will often prompt the correct response right away and reinforce their response as if it was independently answered. With subsequent trials we will fade the prompt as we feel confident the child will begin responding independently. This is typically done in a quick flow to build momentum and the child’s confidence. Hopefully the trend of using positive reinforcement to reach our goals is becoming obvious.
It's important to note that not all children require prompting, but for those that do, removing the opportunity to make errors is very beneficial.
There are a variety of methods we can use to prompt correct response. Here are some of the common prompts you might see.
If a response requires a physical response, like handing us something or completing a task, we can use a physical prompt. We might try taking their hand and helping them through the response. Like many prompts, a physical prompt can be faded from full prompt to partial as we move toward an independent response.
A simple gesture can suffice for some targets that require a physical response. Pointing to the correct answer or blocking the incorrect ones is often sufficient. Similarly, the teacher can model the response they want to see.
When working towards a verbal response, a verbal prompt can be effective. If we’re asking, “What shape?” we might immediately answer our own question by saying “Triangle” so the student can echo us. We can fade to “Triang-”, “Tri-”, etc. as we fade to an independent response.
Another common tool can be visual prompts. Visuals might be predesigned stimuli used to remind a student of a task that should be done at a certain time. For example, a student is being taught to stop and talk to mom before going outside. An effective visual prompt might be a small stop sign placed on all the exits as a visual prompt to request permission before leaving.
Prompting can sometimes seem intrusive and often looks a little strange, however, it is a very important part of our teaching toolkit. Our number 1 goal with our students is for them to learn the skills we are targeting as efficiently as possible, reducing frustration and behaviors very obviously supports this goal.
This entry is a very broad overview of what a prompt is, there is much more to learn about them that might bring up further questions in the future. For example, each child might learn effectively with a different prompt strategy, (or when we prompt). Sometimes, we give our student 2 chances to get it right before we prompt, for instance, if we feel the target is known. At other times, like when we’re teaching a brand-new target, we might prompt them right away.
In the end, a prompt is a supplement to all the other things we do that further enables us to make sure what we are expecting of our students is always clear to them. When using ABA Therapy, we know the best way to get where we’re going is with a very clear map.