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Prompting and Prompt Fading

Why We Prompt

Most teaching procedures that we use involve presenting or contriving opportunities for our learners to respond to something we do with words or actions, or initiate words or actions in response to something they want to do. With our earliest learners, the emphasis is on teaching them to respond to something we do. Either situation requires a means of guiding the learners actions or speech so they can understand what is expected of them.

What does this mean in English? Let's take for example the skill Following Directions. When you give a child a direction such as "Sit Down," they have a few ways of figuring out what you mean from your words. They can watch you model it for them (e.g. You say "sit down" and gesture as you sit and they figure it out). By itself, modeling is usually insufficient to teach our learners, because their disability usually prevents them from attending to or understanding our gestures, at least initially. Before training, your learner might be paying attention to the curtain flapping behind you, while you are desperately trying to get their attention ("Hey over here! Look, I'm sitting! Can you sit too?"). Without a way to show them what you mean you might as well be speaking gibberish.

So what can we do other than model the behavior we want them to imitate? We can prompt them what to do. For most teaching situations, we like the most-to-least prompting heirarchy.