Prompting and Shaping Practices

June 19, 2024 - The Cornerstone Team

Prompting and Shaping Practices

At Cornerstone, we understand that every child on the autism spectrum learns uniquely. To better support our families, we recently hosted a comprehensive training session on “Prompting and Shaping Practices,” which provided parents and caregivers with essential tools to help their children develop new skills and improve their quality of life. In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into the techniques discussed and share practical tips for implementing them at home.

Prompting and Shaping Practices

What is Prompting?

Prompting involves providing assistance to increase the likelihood of a child successfully completing a task. This technique is crucial when teaching new or challenging skills, helping to prevent frustration and errors. Prompts are given after instructions and before the child responds. For instance, if a parent asks their child to put on shoes, they might guide the child’s hands to hold the shoes and help position the feet into them.

Types of Prompts

Full Physical Prompt: Complete hand-over-hand assistance to perform a task, suitable for new motor skills requiring significant help.

Partial Physical Prompt: Providing some physical guidance, such as touching the wrist or elbow, to initiate task completion.

 Model Prompt: Demonstrating the task for the child to imitate, used when a child can move from physical to partial physical prompts.

Gestural Prompt: Using gestures like pointing to indicate the correct response, ideal for tasks needing minimal assistance.

Verbal/Initial Verbal Prompt: Offering full verbal instructions or just the initial part of the expected response for the child to echo, used for tasks requiring verbal responses.

 Visual Prompt: Utilizing pictures, drawings, or videos to signal the correct response, helpful for both motor and verbal tasks.

What is Shaping?

Shaping is a technique where closer approximations toward an end goal are reinforced. For example, if a child needs to learn to say “bubbles,” they might first be reinforced for saying “buh,” then “bub,” and finally “bubbles.” Reinforcement is gradually reduced for earlier approximations as the child progresses.

Tips and Considerations for Prompting

When prompting, it’s essential to use the least intrusive yet most effective prompt to ensure the child’s success. Prompts should be faded as quickly as possible to encourage independent responses. For physical prompts, it can be helpful to warn the child before assisting and to vary tasks to minimize frustration.

Shaping Insights

Shaping helps increase independence and can be applied to various skills, from requesting items to completing daily tasks. Key strategies include moving to the next step quickly, providing more reinforcement for better responses, and withholding reinforcement for previously reinforced steps once progress is made.

Practice Examples

Prompting: Grace, who puts her coat on backward, may need a full physical prompt to learn the correct way.

Shaping: Robert, who struggles to sit at the table during meals, can be gradually reinforced to sit for longer periods, starting with one minute and increasing incrementally.

Prompting and shaping are invaluable tools in teaching new skills and improving daily functioning for children on the autism spectrum. For more detailed guidance, parents are encouraged to contact their BCBA or team lead at Cornerstone

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June 19, 2024, The Cornerstone Team

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