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Autism - Support Across the Spectrum Autism - Support Across the Spectrum

Moving beyond prompt dependence (ABA stuff)

Posted by on Nov. 28, 2013 at 11:16 AM
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1 mom liked this

   

 

"She won't say hi unless I say, 'Say Hello.'" "He will only wash his hands if I put his hand on the knob to turn on the water." "He won't use his fork until I put it in his hand."

I hear statements like this all the time from both parents and providers working with learners what autism. What they are describing is "prompt dependence," which is when a learner requires a prompt from a teacher or parent in order to complete a task. So how do you avoid prompt dependence with your own learners?

Let's start with the prompt itself. There are many different ways to prompt which can be divided into levels by how intrusive the prompt is. Below is a sample of a prompt hierarchy, with the least intrusive prompt at the top and the most intrusive prompt at the bottom. Your goal is to quickly move through the prompt levels to move your learner to independence.

 

 

Now let's look at two different examples to show these prompt levels. In the first example, the goal is for the learner to greet a person who walks into the room. In the second example, the goal is for the learner to pull up his/her pants after using the bathroom as a part of a toileting routine.


Research shows that least-to-most prompting increases potential for errors and slows down rate of acquisition for new skills. Therefore, most-to-least prompting is preferred for teaching new skills. This means that you would start at a full physical prompt, then move your way up the prompt hierarchy until your learner achieves independence with the task.

 

In the past, when working with discrete trials, it has been common practice to have a learner master a skill at a certain prompt level, then move to a less intrusive prompt and have the learner master the skill at that prompt level, steadily moving towards independence. This can actually encourage prompt dependence because the learner remains on the same prompt level for too long.

Instead, you should try to quickly move up the prompt hierarchy in a way that makes sense for the skill you are trying to teach. Below are some tips to help you help your learners achieve independence:

  • Follow the rule of three: Whether you are teaching with discrete trials or in the natural environment, once your learner has successfully responded to a demand three times consecutively, move to a less intrusive prompt.  
  • If you are taking data, make a notation of what prompt level you are using at each step. (And remember, that only independent responses should be counted towards the learner's percentage of correct responses.)
  • At the end of a session or group of trials, note what prompt level you were at by the end of the session. Then start at that level during the next session.  
  • If your learner does not respond correctly when you move to a less intrusive prompt, then move back to the most recent prompt level. Once they respond again correctly at that prompt level three times consecutively, move again to a less restrictive prompt.  
  • Remember that verbal prompts are very difficult to fade. Though they are less intrusive, you should avoid using them when possible.  
  • You can pair prompts and then fade out the more intrusive prompts. For example, with the sample of pulling up pants described above, you can pair a visual prompt with a gestural prompt by showing the symbol for pulling up pants while pointing at the pants. Over time, you stop using the symbol and just use the gestural prompt. The gestural prompt can be faded by moving your point further and further away from the pants.  
  • Write down what the prompt levels will look like for the specific task you are teaching. This way you will be fully prepared to quickly move your learner towards independence. 
  • Differentiate your reinforcement! If you move to a less intrusive prompt and the learner responds correctly, then you should immediately provide a stronger reinforcer than you did for previous responses. If a learner spontaneously responds without a prompt, you should do what I call "throwing them a party" by combining reinforcers (such as tickles and high fives) or providing a highly desirable reinforcer.

Prompting can be very difficult to do well, but following these tips should help set your learner on the path to independence.

by on Nov. 28, 2013 at 11:16 AM
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Replies (1-10):
lillettemomma
by Member on Nov. 28, 2013 at 12:31 PM
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This is why I will not allow my autistic kids to do aba as it is almost never done right.....I worked in an autistic classroom that was strictly aba and the kids did great with prompt and reward but in the real world they weren't able to perform any skills....
Maxsmommy123
by Jamie on Nov. 28, 2013 at 3:15 PM
1 mom liked this
Thanks for sharing I will put this in my head for when max starts ABA.
conejoazul
by on Nov. 28, 2013 at 5:11 PM
1 mom liked this

Great information. Thank you for sharing it.

darbyakeep45
by Darby on Nov. 28, 2013 at 6:36 PM
1 mom liked this

Thanks for sharing...Brady is working towards less and less prompts with things.  We're very proud of him!

Momof4AEMW
by Gold Member on Nov. 28, 2013 at 9:46 PM
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ABA is not available to our area.  I think my son's teacher uses some of these techniques though. 

Charizma77
by Carissa on Nov. 28, 2013 at 9:53 PM
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Good info, thanks

HippoCat
by Hadley on Nov. 29, 2013 at 2:04 AM
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I have to save this and keep reading it because it is really complicated for me to understand, but very important. Thank you for sharing.

darbyakeep45
by Darby on Nov. 29, 2013 at 2:12 AM
1 mom liked this

When it is done right, kids thrive on it, my son being one of them:)  

Quoting lillettemomma:

This is why I will not allow my autistic kids to do aba as it is almost never done right.....I worked in an autistic classroom that was strictly aba and the kids did great with prompt and reward but in the real world they weren't able to perform any skills....


Basherte
by Silver Member on Nov. 29, 2013 at 12:07 PM
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Quoting lillettemomma:

This is why I will not allow my autistic kids to do aba as it is almost never done right.....I worked in an autistic classroom that was strictly aba and the kids did great with prompt and reward but in the real world they weren't able to perform any skills....

This is why the parent needs to be involved, and not rely totally on the therapist to do all the work. My son's speech therapist complimented me on always being there right in the middle of things and doiong the therapy with them. She told me that there are a lot of parents who will go off and do other things while the therapist is there with their child, like that time is "me" time for the parent. The therapist's job is to work with your child, yes, but also teach the parent the therapy as well, so the child effectively has more than just an hour or so with therapy a week, even if they only have an hour with the therapist a week. (I'm not saying you do this or are that type of parent. I'm just using that as an example)

I go from physically (hand over hand) doing things with him, to other prompts instead of the hand over hand... If it works that time, I continue with it, if not I do a between taking his hand to it. Once the other prompt works consistently then I move on to a different prompt.

It's a slow process for us, but it is working and that's all that matters. He will do things in his own time. He will understand things in his own time. That doesn't mean we stop or worrying that it isn't working. He keeps progressing and has had very few slide backs, and those didn't last long and were very small steps backwards. 

I think aba therapy works. Of course, every child being different, aba therapy might not work for all of them. You have to do what does work for you child. 

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redhotmomma79
by on Nov. 29, 2013 at 6:56 PM
1 mom liked this

we stopped ABA because after 5 years the only progress he's made is through the school and ME! They had him prompt dependent as well as throwing fits to get a food reinforcer which I told them NOT to use

Quoting lillettemomma:

This is why I will not allow my autistic kids to do aba as it is almost never done right.....I worked in an autistic classroom that was strictly aba and the kids did great with prompt and reward but in the real world they weren't able to perform any skills....


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