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Fluency/Precision Teaching

We have included a special section on fluency because of the success several educators are reporting using fluency strategies with autistic students.

A brief overview of fluency concepts is provided here for informational purposes, as well as some fluency charts and examples of how we use them. As with all interventions, we suggest you refer to the original source material before choosing how to apply these teaching technologies with your learners. Our interpretation of the material is guided by the experiences of only two children.

For more information about Precision Teaching and Fluency, check out our favorite Fluency/Precision Teaching Links

An Oversimplified Overview of Fluency

Fluency strategies are designed to take an existing skill, and increase accuracy and speed of skill performance in order to develop competence. For example, a child may be able to tell someone his name 10 seconds after being asked, but if he's already lost the attention of the person asking, that skill isn't going to help his social success. The goal of fluency training for this child would be to increase his rate of performance of telling people his name until it became fast and accurate and therefore meaningful for the child.

Precision Teaching Literature suggests that teaching a skill fluently (achieving accuracy plus speed as a requirement of mastery) achieves the following goals:

Maintenance tasks:

Fluency experts claim (and our experience affirms) that teaching maintenance skills to fluency negates the necessity to keep revisiting maintenance tasks to ensure that they aren't lost. For example, Evy learned colors to a mastery level that required him to name many colors quickly in a short period of time (e.g. 30 seconds--see color fluency chart below). We never had to revisit this skill in maintenance. It was retained at a high rate of responding over time.

How to Teach a Skill to Fluency

Anytime you undertake to teach a skill to a particular learner, it should be individualized to their capacities and experience. But a general overview of follows the following paradigm

Fluency Charts

Here are some examples of charts we use to require fluent responses to certain language or visual cues (E.g. What color? What shape? or What Size?). Typically, we laminate the sheets, or put them in a plastic sheet protector.

Using Fluency Charts

The following charts are for learners who have acquired expressive identification of the basic colors, shapes or sizes. We use these charts three different ways.

  1. Naming Without Cues: Using as example the color fluency chart, the learner points and names the color in a left to right, top to bottom sequence (mimicking reading). They should point or follow with their finger as they go. We try to keep them at a steady pace and use errorless prompting when they get stuck (either redirect their finger or verbally prompt). Shapes, sizes and alphabet letters can be taught the same way.
  2. Naming With Cues: Using the color chart as our example, we use the language cue "What color?" each time we point to a different colored circle in a random pattern. This accomplishes two things. First, it teaches joint attention to where the instructor is pointing. Second, it helps teach the association between the verbal cue, such as "What color?" and naming the color (aka stimulus control). If you fail to teach a child to associate verbal cues with responses, you increase the likelihood that he or she will fail to use the skill in a conversational way. Shapes, sizes and alphabet letters can be taught the same way
  3. Listening discrimination (Stimulus Control) After a child has fluently mastered the naming of colors with the cue "What Color?" (see example two above), and the naming of shapes with the cue "What Shape?", it is often necessary and helpful to combine the two skills in one chart. This is done by taking the basic shape chart and coloring randomly the colors that were previously mastered on the color chart. Then you proceed to randomly vary your language cues between "What Color?" and "What Shape?" in a left to right, top to bottom fashion (mimicking reading). Because your language cues are unpredictable, the learner has to listen carefully to see what you are going to ask, thus teaching listening discrimination and improved stimulus control. Likewise, this can be done with color, size or shape combinations. (Anything you feel necessary for the student to learn).