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What is ABA Prompting?

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Prompting is a technique used to help the child get a correct response.  During the Discrete Trial you may give the the child the SD and he may need help getting the correct response.  Prompting the correct response will help the child know what we expect when given the SD.

We prompt not only to get the correct response, but to help the child feel positive about the response when followed by a reinforcer.  The child gets the correct response, with a prompt, and feels good about it because it is paired with reinforcement.  He is more likely to give the same response independently the next time. Independence will come by fading the prompt.  You still need to reinforce, even on a prompted trial.  This will encourage the correct answer next time.  Using differential reinforcement becomes important.  A prompted response results in a lower key reinforcer than a independent response, which should receive a big reinforcer.

There are many types of prompts: verbal, physical, modeling, and positional cues are a few.

bullet A physical prompt is when you physically help the child get the right answer.  For example, SD: you say-"Raise Arms", and then you physically raise his arms.  Then you reinforce.
bullet A verbal prompt is when you verbally give the answer you want the child to give.  For example, you say-“What is this?”  then you answer- “Cup” and then the child says “cup”.  Then you reinforce.
bullet Another prompt used a lot is a modeling prompt.  You can do this yourself, as a therapist, or with another child.  Alternate with both ways.   A model prompt is when you model the behavior you want the child to exhibit.  “Raise Arms:” and you raise your arms to show him.  The child sees you do it and imitates.  Then you reinforce.  Imitation programs may be needed before using this prompt.
bullet A positional prompt is when you position the object closer to the child so he is more likely to pick the object given.  You say- “Touch the car”, since the car is closer to him than any of the other objects; he is more likely to focus on it and choose it.  Then you reinforce.



Fading the prompt is the eventual goal.  As the child is able to give the correct response with prompting, slowly start fading the prompt until the child is giving the correct response unprompted.  Fading the prompt means you do the prompt but with less emphasis with each succeeding trial until you are not prompting at all.  Or give an extra half second pause with each trial between when you give the SD and when you step in to prompt as you wait for the child's response.  The goal is to slowly pull back your help while still evoking correct responses.

There are many other different types of prompts.  It is important for the child not to develop a dependence on prompts.  Fade the prompts as quickly as possible; but, fade the prompts a little at a time.

It is important that you be aware of your own non-verbal communication cues you give off when doing therapy.  You must be careful that you are not giving prompts unconsciously when doing therapy as the child will learn to depend on the prompt- even if you are unaware you are doing it.  A good example is when doing labeling with cards or objects- if you always look with your eyes to the correct object, the child might pick up on it and learn to watch for your clue.  Or if you always place the correct card or object in a particular place or position; they might learn to use that as a prompt.  Prompting is a very useful tool when done intentionally and then faded as soon as possible.  


The ultimate goal is to get the child to give the correct response without any prompting at all. For More information about prompting, see
A Work In Progress BY John McEachin.

You will find many valuable books, tapes and conference info at the Future Horizons website about ABA.  Future Horizons is a company specializing in products related to Autism Spectrum Disorders.  This is the FIRST place to look for books and tapes on Autism because that is what they SPECIALIZE in providing.

Find great books, videos, and conferences now at Future Horizons
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