A prompt is a cue or a hint given to the child to help them complete a task or behaviour. An example of a prompt might be gesturing to the correct item during choice-making trials, or even taking your child’s hand and guiding them to the correct item (hand-over-hand).
Prompts are used to teach the child a skill. When teaching commences, the child may have no idea of what is expected. Guiding (prompting) the child to the correct response repeatedly in the beginning, then reinforcing this correct (prompted) response will help the child be successful in the beginning and he or she will associate the praise with the response being taught.
When you make your request, for example, “touch head”, the response should be evident within three to five seconds. If it takes longer, intervene with a prompt.
Prompts come in different levels, from the strongest (used at the beginning of teaching a skill) to the weakest. Some different prompts are:
Prompts are not delivered in a rough or forceful manner; they are meant to be gentle guidance!
Your goal is always to have your child produce the correct response independently. If you have more than one person working with your child it is important everyone knows what level of prompting you are using. This ties in to taking data. If you have four individuals working with your child and three of them are getting a 40% correct rate, while the fourth is getting 90%, it could be that the fourth person is using a stronger prompt than the others.
Decide (beforehand) how much prompting is needed if there is no experience with the skill, start with the strongest prompt (for example, hand-over-hand). Prompts should always be as weak as possible. They should be faded as quickly as possible, to avoid “prompt dependency”. It should always be clear to all therapists involved what the prompt level is every day. This is one of the items you would be discussing at your regular staff meetings.