Autism Behavior training Strategies: Prompting and Shaping

Prompting and shaping are two behavior modification techniques used to teach new skills and behaviors, and they can be particularly helpful for individuals with autism. These techniques provide structured guidance and support to help individuals learn and acquire new skills progressively. Here how prompting and shaping can be used in autism intervention:

1. Prompting:

Prompting involves providing cues, hints, or assistance to help the individual initiate or complete a desired behavior or task. It can be particularly useful for individuals with
autism who may struggle with initiating or completing tasks independently. Different types
of prompts can be used, including verbal prompts (spoken instructions), visual prompts (visual cues or instructions), physical prompts (physical guidance), and gestural prompts
(non-verbal cues).

Graduated Prompting:

Prompting can be adjusted based on the individual level of need. Initially, a more intrusive prompt may be used to guide the behavior, but over time, prompts are faded or reduced as the individual becomes more independent in performing the task.

Prompt Fading:

This involves systematically reducing the intensity or intrusiveness of prompts over time. For example, if a child is learning to tie their shoelaces, a prompt may initially involve physical guidance, but as they become more proficient, verbal prompts may replace physical guidance.

Least-to-Most Prompting:

This strategy involves starting with the least intrusive prompt and increasing the intensity if needed. For example, you may begin with a visual cue and only introduce verbal prompts if the individual doesn’t respond to the visual cue.

Time Delay:

Delay: In a time delay prompting strategy, a delay is introduced between  the presentation of a cue or prompt and the individual  response. This delay is gradually increased as the individual becomes more independent.

2. Shaping:

Shaping is a technique used to teach a complex behavior by breaking it down into
smaller, more manageable steps. It involves reinforcing successive approximations of the target behavior, gradually guiding the individual to perform the desired behavior. Shaping
is helpful for teaching complex skills, such as communication, self-help, or social behaviors.

Successive Approximations:

In shaping, you start by reinforcing behaviors that are closer to the desired behavior and gradually shape these behaviors toward the target behavior. For example, if you want a child to say a full sentence, you might initially reinforce single words, and then two-word phrases before achieving the target sentence.

Positive Reinforcement:

Shaping relies on positive reinforcement. As the individual demonstrates behaviors closer to the target behavior, they are positively reinforced to encourage further progress.

Reinforcement Schedule:

Reinforcement can be provided on a continuous schedule (every time the individual exhibits a closer approximation) or on an intermittent schedule (reinforcement is provided after a certain number of approximations). The schedule used depends on the individual’s needs and progress.

Both prompting and shaping can be used in a wide range of skill acquisition areas for individuals with autism, including communication, self-care, social interactions, and academic tasks. It’s important to individualize these techniques to meet the specific needs of each person and to provide consistent and supportive guidance throughout the learning process. These techniques are often implemented as part of a comprehensive behavior intervention plan developed by professionals in the field of autism  intervention.

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