Beyond the B.A.S.I.C.S. Blog

October 17, 2011

Prompt Fading


You want your client to learn new skills, and since chances are he’s not going to conjure correct answers from thin air, you’re probably going to be doing some prompting. Make sure you have an “exit strategy” – don’t ever use a prompt you don’t already know how to fade out.  Think about the skill you’re trying to teach and use the prompt fading technique you think best fits the skill.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Most-to-Least Prompts
  2. With most-to-least prompting you will begin by prompting the entire correct response for your client.  This method works well for physical tasks, and for times you do not want to give your client the opportunity to get an answer wrong.
  3. EX: Sd: “Wash your hands, please.”
  4. PROMPT: Therapist physically guides client through all steps of washing hands


  1. As your client learns the skill, you will slowly decrease the level of help you offer. In the above example, you might begin fading your prompt by removing your hands and allowing your client to turn off the water by himself.  If he can, great! Next time you run the trial, fade out the next to last step.  If he can’t, no big deal – just fade your prompt back in until he can complete the step successfully.
  2. Typically, most-to-least prompting begins as physical guidance, then decreases to a visual prompt (ex: pointing to the faucet when it is time to turn it off), then to verbal instructions, and finally to natural stimulus control. Keep in mind that verbal prompts are the most difficult kind of prompt to fade, so only use them when it’s absolutely necessary.
  3. Least-to-Most Prompts
  4. This is the exact opposite of most-to-least prompting, and gives your client an opportunity to get the answer wrong.  It usually involves a time limit followed by the prompt itself.
  5. EX: Sd: “Wash your hands, please.”
  6. RESPONSE: Client does not complete step one within the given time limit.

iii.     Re-present Sd: “Wash your hands, please.”

  1. PROMPT: Therapist physically guides client through the task
  3. Stimulus Fading
  4. Stimulus fading works well with written skills, and typically exaggerates a certain aspect of the answer, which is then gradually faded in or out.
  5. EX: Sd: “Write your phone number, please.”
  6. PROMPT: Therapist gives client a piece of paper that reads, “867-530_”

iii.     RESPONSE: Client fills in “9” on the paper.

  2. As the client learns more of the skill (in this case, a phone number), the therapist slowly decreases the visual prompt by dropping the last two numbers, then the last three, etc.

Melissa Ruiz, BCaBA


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