What Is Prompting?

What is Prompting?

Prompting is when a parent or therapist engages in encouraging the desired response from a learner. Depending on the learner and the skills being taught one may use most intrusive to least intrusive prompting hierarchy and teach the individual in what is called an “errorless” manner (i.e. don’t let the individual make mistakes).

Sometimes least to most prompting is used as this allows for an individual to engage independently in steps or skills that have not been explicitly taught and mastered.


There are different forms of prompting:

  1. Verbal Cues – this is what one tells a learner to do in order to complete a certain task. An example is a parent teaching a child to spell the word “ball” by saying, “Spell Ball,” then prompting the child for the correct response, “B-A-L-L.”
  2. Visual Cues – uses physical or tangible objects to aid in completing a certain task. An example would be presenting a picture of a ball with the word “ball” spelled on it to a learner to teach the learner how to spell the word “ball”.
  3. Demonstration or Modeling – here a parent or therapist teaches a child how to complete a task by acting out the task and having the child follow. An example is telling the child to “touch the ball” and touching the ball with his or her own hand.
  4. Physical Guidance – this involves manipulation in order to teach a learner. An example of physical guidance would be a parent or therapist actually guiding the child’s hand towards the ball to touch it.

Rules of Prompting:

  1. Use prompts at the same time that you give the SD or command (e.g. “Touch (apple).” When using prompt hierarchy of most intrusive to least intrusive, fade the prompts as quickly as possible, until no prompting is required.
  2. After a prompted trial, always give the SD again to see if the prompt helped teach the skill.
  3. Avoid prompt dependence.
  4. Be cautious of inadvertent prompting.

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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

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