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5 Main Types of Prompts: An Infographic

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As we are talking about prompts, I thought it important to define prompts before we talk about how to use them and fade them.  First, a prompt is anything you add to instruction to help the student get to the right response.  This means that it includes pretty much anything that is done after the direction is given or can be planned in advance.  

Essentially there are response prompts and stimulus prompts.  Stimulus prompts is when something in the materials themselves give information about the correct response.  Positional prompts
Different people call different types of prompts by different names, so the infographic below is designed to help standardize how I talk about them.  They are laid out in the hierarchy loosely from most intrusive to least intrusive.  Here are a couple of points to remember about types of prompts.  
Verbal prompts tend to move around different parts of the prompt hierarchy depending on the skill and the procedure being used.  I include them as more intrusive prompts because someone has to be there to provide them.  In addition, they are often very difficult to fade because they often become part of the instructions.  In addition they are often the easiest for us to use because talking and instructing come naturally to us.  Because of this, we often use them without realizing we are prompting.  My general rule is if you repeat the direction, you have used a verbal prompt.  We want students to do complete an action that is asked when it is asked once.  We don’t want to train them to respond only after we repeat the instruction.  We have to take responsibility for the instruction and how we do that.  
Visual prompts I put at the less intrusive end of the scale because you can leave them in place and no one has to be there to complete them.  We all use visual prompts, like when we make a grocery list.  Sometimes we want to fade them and sometimes it’s not so important.  
Finally, there are more types of prompts than the ones listed here.  The ones I list are primarily response prompts–ones in which we given information about the response.   However, visual prompts and some positional prompts can be considered stimulus prompts.  Stimulus prompts are a type of visual prompt in which the cue is built into the stimulus.  Teaching a student to read the word red by making the word red and then fading it to black.  You need to fade these types of prompts and there are some research studies looking at some interesting ways to teach reading by showing a picture that over time changes into word.  For a more complete description of prompts, including some concepts I will cover later in the series, check out this site.
As a teaser there is some information that indicates we may not want to use positional prompts and stimulus prompts because they change the key element of the stimulus we are working with–they change what the word you are teaching looks like, for example.  I’ll talk more about that later in the series.

In addition to these prompts, you can have partial physical prompts–only guiding the learner part way through the act.  You can have model prompts, where you model what needs to be done (I generally refer to them as gestural prompts because I’ve found too many codes on a data sheet get too confusing).  There is also some terrific work being done using text prompts, pagers to prompt, and auditory prompts that are pre-recorded.  We don’t use them much in discrete trials but they are terrific for teaching life skills and improving independence.

And fading out prompts and how we use prompts in discrete trials will be the topic of the next post.

For those of you who downloaded the summer vacation narrative freebie mini-book, I added some pages about summer school so it can be used with students going to ESY. I don’t know how I could have forgotten that!  You can download it here.

Until next time,

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