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What is Prompting?

A prompt in intervention assists or encourages a learner before or during a learning task to acquire a skill. Prompts are used by a learner's intervention team including but not limited to parents, therapists (e.g., speech, OT, EI, PT, ABA, etc.), child care providers, and family to help the learner acquire target skills (Neitzel & Wolery, 2009). Different types of prompts are used depending on the learner style and level of independence.

Visual Prompts: visual prompts includes videos, photographs, or drawings on paper, whiteboards, or electronic devices. Visual prompts also include positional prompts when the mediator positions the correct response closest to the learner.

Verbal/Auditory Prompts: Verbal prompts include words or statements that help the learner acquire target skills or to complete a response. For example, when a learner does not respond to the question, "what animal says, 'woof woof?'" The mediator can use a full verbal prompt by saying, "dog," or use a partial verbal prompt by saying the first phoneme/sound, "duh." The mediator can also make statements such as, "write your name" to prompt the learner to fill out a worksheet.

Auditory prompts can include alarms or timers that prompts a learner that an activity is over.

Gestural Prompts: Gestural prompts include pointing, nodding, or any type of action the learner can watch. The mediator might ask the learner, "bring me your shoes" while pointing at the learner's shoes or putting a hand out to prompt the learner to place the shoes in the mediator's hands.

Modeling: The mediator demonstrates or models the target skill to the learner. For example, when a learner is acquiring the skill of washing hands, the mediator demonstrates how to wash his hands by turning on the faucet, lathering his hands with soap, rinsing his hands, and drying his hands with a towel.

Physical Prompts: The mediator uses partial or full physical assistance (hand-over-hand) for the learner to complete a task. For example, when a learner is acquiring the skill of stringing beads on a string, the mediator positions his hands over the learner's hands and helps the learner string the bead. When the learner begins to be more independent, the mediator fades to partial prompts by providing some assistance and guidance for the learner to complete the requested activity.

Prompt Hierarchy


Neitzel, J., & Wolery, M. (2009). Overview of prompting. Chapel Hill, NC: The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, The University of North Carolina.

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