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Health and Fitness

Prompt Hierarchy in ABA Therapy Explained!

When parents are thinking about getting their child enrolled in an ABA therapy center in Chicago, they might come across ‘Prompt Hierarchy’. In ABA or other common forms of behavioral therapies, the term ‘prompting’ is most commonly. Means to provide assistance or cues in order to help encourage the use of a particular skill.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the Prompt Hierarchy in ABA. What is it? When and how are prompts used in ABA therapy? 

What is Prompt Hierarchy in ABA Therapy?

In general, a prompt refers to anything that an ABA therapist can find helpful. With which the child (or any client) can effectively respond. However, when we talk about ABA therapy, prompting generally refers to the type and level of instructions given to a particular child in therapy in order to finish a task. 

Considering the type of instruction, it can be either a verbal instruction, a visual one, or even a physical cue. Therefore, the prompt hierarchy refers to that level of prompting based on how obtrusive the instruction is. Therapists make sure to use the least most intrusive strategies, whenever possible.

Moreover, it is also important to note that prompts are usually given to children before any behavior occurs, as prompts are always predecessors. 

In simple words, in case a child is already completing a task or completing a specific skill, then a prompt will not be necessary. However, in such cases, positive reinforcements are more relevant. In order to encourage and retain specific behaviors in children that are deemed desirable. With the help of positive reinforcements, the child will repeat that desired behavior in the future.

Types of Prompts

There are numerous types of prompts, such as:

Verbal Prompt: A verbal prompt is that particular prompt that involves using a verbal cue for the child. For instance, when a child is taught a word by giving the beginning sound of the word. This way, the child will learn speech and language easier.

Gestural Prompt: Gestural prompts are those prompts that include gestures, such as pointing towards specific objects, or nodding. These types of prompts help children understand what they are expected to do better.

Modeling Prompt: Modeling prompts usually involve the therapist or teacher to demonstrate the prompt (task or skill) themselves first and then asking the child to mimic or copy what he/she saw the therapist or teacher do.

Full Physical Prompt: In this type of prompt, the therapist or teacher physically guides the child to complete a specific task or skill. This type of prompt is usually referred to as ‘hand-over-hand assistance. As therapists usually get hold of the child’s hand in order to help them understand better.

Partial Physical Prompt: partial physical prompts help provide children with help or guidance. Only when they are in need of it. 

Visual Prompt: Visual prompts make use of visual aspects, such as pictures, photographs, clips, or other types of visual cues.

Positional Prompt: This type of prompt involves placing the correct response near the child.

When and How Are Prompts Used in ABA therapy?

When we talk about prompts being used in ABA therapy, ABA therapists consistently make use of prompts in order to produce effective results. The primary goal of any ABA therapy is to use the least intrusive prompt that produces effective results. 

Moreover, as far as the types of prompts used by ABA therapists are concerned, they will depend entirely upon the child, as well as the overall environment, and the type of skill or task to be completed. 

Furthermore, different prompts will work differently for each individual, which is why the overall therapy will be completely individualized. And the most appropriate and suitable prompts will be utilized by the therapists.

In order to use the above-mentioned prompts for the child. ABA therapists will first identify the specific behavior in the child. And will then use the most appropriate and relevant prompts for that targeted behavior. To make it simple, let’s take a look at the order that is to be used for promoting and fading as well- Prompting—reinforcing—fading.

Different types of prompts

We talked about the different types of prompts and how they work. Now let’s take a look at how an ABA therapist will make use of those prompts in order to teach a child a specific skill or to complete a specific task. 

Let’s take the example of teaching a child how to use a fork. The following prompts will be used in such ways when an ABA therapist will be teaching a child how to eat with the help of a fork:

Verbal Prompt: The therapist will command the child, or give instructions to the child by asking  “Please pick up your fork.”

Gestural Prompt: The ABA therapist will point towards the fork, and even mimics using the fork as well. In case the child picks up the fork successfully, the therapist will nod as well.

Modeling Prompt: The ABA therapist will demonstrate. How to pick up the fork from the table, and how to use it to eat it. The child will then be asked to mimic what he saw.

Full Physical Prompt:

The ABA therapist will help the child by holding his/her hand, and guiding him/her on how to pick the fork up, and how to eat food with the help of the fork.

Partial Physical Prompt: The ABA therapist will only move the child’s hand towards the spoon. And only guide them further when necessary.

Visual Prompt: A picture or video clip will be shown to the child so that the child can understand through visual means.

Positional Prompt: The spoon will be placed next to the child.

However, it is important to note that several prompts can be used to encourage an action, depending upon what prompts produce the best results. This way, the child will be encouraged how they can perform a task. Until they can complete tasks independently in the future. Without ever needing prompts or anyone’s assistance.


CAITIE C. is a digital marketing and SEO Expert working for multiple organizations to boost their business and online presence.

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