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ABA Teaching Strategies


Description: VM and VSM can teach long chains of behavior. Taped sequences of behaviors, such as bathing or toileting, are shown on the video. In VSM, the client observes him or herself performing a behavior successfully on video, and then imitates the targeted behavior

Implementation: The Direct Interventionist and the parent/guardian/client decide what chain of a behavior will be videotaped. Often, VM and VSM are used for teaching self-help skills or independent living skills while a task analysis is being followed. It is preferable if the client him/herself can be shown on the video while completing the steps in the process. While the client is watching the video, the parent/guardian will label the steps in the process and ask the client questions. When the client performs the steps in the process, the parent/caregiver or Direct Interventionist will provide feedback.


Description: Through FCT, the client can learn to have a more effective and acceptable interaction with others and possibly to replace challenging behaviors. The replacement behaviors may involve speech, gestures, signs, or pictures. FCT will take advantage of natural opportunities to encourage and capture the replacement behaviors

Implementation: Throughout the sessions, and specifically during a designated time period, the Direct Interventionist will create opportunities for the client to practice his/her verbal behavior skills (e.g., expressing needs, dislikes, or self-advocacy skills or articulating preferences). Through the use of prompts, reinforcement, and tokens, the Direct Interventionist can increase the rate of the client’s communication. The client can practice the communication skills during behavior rehearsal
activities or in the community setting while the Direct Interventionist provides instructions through a Bluetooth headset.


Description: Errorless learning procedures are employed to lower levels of frustration, to facilitate mastery and to maintain high rates of reinforcement. During direct instruction, tasks are mixed and varied. This approach maintains a learner motivation and facilitates generalization. Material presented at an instructional level, with 70%-80% of the material known and 20%-30% of the material unknown. This facilitates acquisition. Much effort is devoted to teaching in the natural environment. Skinner points out the following verbal relations: mand, tact, echoic (and imitation), intraverbal, textual, transcriptive, and copying a text.

Implementation: For client’s with limited or no speech, mand training can be the focus at first. The Direct Interventionist creates natural situations in where the client is motivated to ask for something. For example, if the client is thirsty after eating salty chips, the client may want juice or water. The Direct Interventionist can place the water out of reach, and will prompt the client to say or sign for ‘water’. The Direct Interventionist will prompt and reinforce, so the client can receive the water immediately after the response.
For quick learners, the Direct interventionist can teach the client both manding and tacting simultaneously.


Description: The purpose of using a prompt is to cue the client to engage in the target behavior. This creates an opportunity for the behavior to be reinforced, which increases the future likelihood of that behavior in similar situations. The ultimate goal is for the client to perform the behavior independently, without prompts. Prompts are provided prior to the desired behavior. They are often categorized in a prompt hierarchy from most to least intrusive.
There are several types of prompts:
Verbal prompts: Using a vocalization to indicate the desired response
Visual prompts: Using a visual cue or picture
Gestural prompts: Using a physical gesture
Positional prompts: Placing the target item closer to the individual
Physical prompts: Physically guiding the individual to produce the desired response. There are many degrees of physical prompts. The most intrusive level is hand-over-hand prompting, and the least intrusive level is a slight tap to initiate movement.

Implementation: The parent/guardian or Direct Interventionist will choose the least intrusive prompt and use this prompt to cue the target behavior. It is important that the client responds to the prompt and that the prompt occasions the target behavior. When the client shows progress, the Direct Interventionist will use less intrusive prompts, and eventually, fade the prompts. A client may also arrange environmental cues to prompt behavior, for example visuals (e.g., flashcards or an electronic device).


Description and Implementation: There are different options for fading prompts. Prompts can be abruptly dropped, less intrusive prompts can be used, or part of the prompt can be removed gradually. The goal of prompt fading is for the client to engage in the target behavior independently. Before fading a prompt completely, it is essential that the behavior be maintained by natural consequences.


Description: Shaping is the development of a new behavior by the reinforcement of successive approximations and extinction of preceding approximations of the behavior. Small steps that lead towards the final goal are reinforced. Fading reinforcers requires that the individual respond in closer and closer approximations to the target behavior before reinforcement is delivered

Implementation: The Direct Interventionist may praise the client every time he or she makes progress towards the target goal. Thereby, the client becomes more motivated to perform the skills and eventually can perform the skill independently. It is important that the client’s progress be closely monitored, so once the client is making progress, the Direct Interventionist gradually thins the schedule of reinforcement.


Description: Chaining is used to teach tasks that are comprised of many discrete steps. Tasks are broken down into small steps, and then each step is taught within the sequence itself. A Task Analysis (TA) can often be filled out. A TA is a step-by-step breakdown of a task, such as toileting or brushing teeth, into smaller steps.
There are two forms of chaining:
Backward Chaining: The last step of the task is introduced first and then the Direct Interventionist works his/her way backwards to the beginning of the task
Forward Chaining: The first step in the chain is taught until it is mastered and then successive steps are added as competence increases.

Implementation: The Direct Interventionist may fill out a TA before he or she starts chaining. By breaking down the task into steps and working slowly towards the end goal, the client has more opportunities to master the task (e.g., bathing, buying groceries). It is important that, along with chaining, the Direct Interventionist uses modeling, feedback, and reinforcement.


Description: The client will practice a response that has been previously taught. Usually, this takes place after the trainer has modeled the behavior

Implementation: The Direct Interventionist will observe the behavior rehearsal and will provide feedback and reinforcement. Peers may be invited to participate in behavior rehearsal as well, so the situation may be more realistic.


Description: Generalization is the expansion of an individual’s performance ability beyond the initial conditions set for acquisition of a skill. Generalization training can occur across people, places, and materials. For example, once a skill is learned in one setting, with a particular person and with certain materials, the skills are taught in less restrictive settings and with more variation than the initial acquisition phase

Implementation: This strategy should be used across all skills. In order for a skill to be considered mastered, a client should demonstrate that he/she can perform the skill across people, places, and materials (e.g., the client is able to ask for assistance from his/her mother, his/her friends, and people in the community). A skill is considered mastered when the client can respond independently across contexts, such as the home, school/work, and community settings.


Description: This strategy may involve the use of an electronic tablet, or a Smart phone.

Implementation: Various apps are available, which may be used to assist the client in, for example, independently finding a street or bus station, expressively communicating with others (e.g., if a client is non-verbal) etc.

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