Children with ADHD, Autism and Developmental Delays can be forgetful, impulsive and prone to distractions with daily tasks. Parents often get frustrated when their child or adolescent does not complete their tasks and responsibilities completely. Using effective prompts can help parents reduce their stress and maintain the relationship. Effective prompting and fading can help children and adolescents become more independent, respectful, and responsible.
Reasons for Using Prompts
Prompts can be used to increase skills or improve behaviors. Examples include improving hygiene, completing daily tasks, transitioning from one task to another, completing homework, following directions, improving communication skills, and many other skills and behaviors.
Prompt: Any assistance that helps the child/adolescent perform the correct skill or behavior.
Fading: Gradually reducing prompts until the correct skill or behavior is being done independently.
Types of Prompts for ADHD, Autism, and Developmental Delays
1. Physical – touching the child/adolescent including (Full) hand over hand through whole or part of the behavior to (Partial) touching an elbow to start a response. Physical prompting is typically used with younger children.
2. Modeling – physically demonstrating the correct skill or behavior. A parent shows how to do the correct behavior or skill first then has the child do it. Also, doing the correct behavior together is a form of modeling like when helping your child clean their room.
3. Gestural – using gestures (pointing, hand gesture, orienting or signaling in some way) to encourage the correct behavior.
4. Verbal (full and partial) – a full verbal prompt is giving the entire response (“juice) and a partial verbal prompt is giving just the beginning sound (“j”).
5. Voice Inflection – using your voice in a way to give a hint to the child/adolescent which response would be correct.
6. Visual - presenting a picture, object, list, or picture symbols to help the child/adolescent do the correct behavior or skill.
Considerations and Cautions
Parents should use the least intrusive prompt necessary for the child/adolescent to do the desired skill or behavior. For new skills, the child/adolescent may need more intrusive prompting such as physical prompts. For a skill that is already acquired, a child/adolescent may need just a word or a gesture to get him or her to perform the skill.
Parents need to work together to make sure the appropriate prompt is being used so there is consistency in teaching.
Prompts need to be faded as soon as possible as children/adolescents may become prompt-dependent. Fading makes sure that a child/adolescent will not become dependent on adults to complete tasks for them.
Increasing reinforcement as the prompts are faded, motivates the child/adolescent to continue the appropriate skill or behavior.
Verbal prompts are the most widely used prompt, but can also be aversive to many children/adolescents. Instead of prompting exactly what a child/adolescent needs to do, try asking: What comes next? Where does that go? What should you be doing? Asking open-ended questions causes him/her to think, fosters independence, and generalizes skills across other settings.
Kyle Bringhurst, MSW
Address: 3048 East Baseline Road Suite 107
Mesa, AZ 85204