Prompting is a means to induce an individual with added stimuli (prompts) to perform a desired behavior.  Prompting is provided when an ordinary antecedent is ineffective,

and is extensively used in behavior shaping and skill acquisition. It provides learners with assistance to increase the probability that a desired behavior will occur.  Successful performance of a desired behavior elicits positive reinforcement, therefore reinforcing learning. A prompt is like a cue or support to encourage a desired behavior that otherwise does not occur.

How to Use

Prompts vary from most to least intrusive. Prompting should be faded to avoid prompt dependency.

Steps in Prompting

  1. Identify the least intrusive prompt. Choose a prompt that is necessary for a correct response to occur.

  1. Give differential reinforcement. After a correct response, give appropriate reinforcement that is equivalent to the level of performance independency.

  1. Fade prompt. After the child masters a skill, gradually move prompt away or replace with least intrusive prompt.

When to Use

Prompting can be used effectively with children and youth with ASD, regardless of cognitive level and/or expressive communicative abilities across the age range. The evidence base shows that prompting is an effective intervention for learners with ASD ranging from 3 to 22 years of age.

Prompting can be used in home, school, and community settings to teach new skills, and avoid frustration and errors in responding.


Prompts are often categorized into a hierarchy from most intrusive to least intrusive.

Types of prompts (from most intrusive to least intrusive), their descriptions, and examples are as follows:

Full physical assistance. The teacher uses “hand-over-hand” support to aid the child in completing a task (e.g., when teaching the child to pick up a cup, the teacher takes the child’s hand and guides him to pick it up).

Partial physical assistance. The teacher provides partial physical assistance to help the child complete a task (e.g., when teaching the child to pick up the cup, the teacher guides the child’s hand to the cup by tapping his elbow).

Full model. The teacher models the desired behavior (e.g., when teaching the child how to clap, the teacher claps while telling the child to clap).

Partial model. The teacher models only part of the desired behavior (e.g., when teaching the child how to clap, the teacher puts his hands in front of himself, but does not actually clap).

Full verbal prompts. The teacher verbally models the desired behavior (e.g., when teaching the child to expressively label “car,” the teacher asks, “What is it? Say car.”).

Partial verbal model. The teacher verbally models only part of the desired behavior (e.g., when teaching the child to expressively label “car,” the teacher asks, “What is it? Say c__”).

Gestural prompt. The teacher utilizes a physical gesture to encourage the desired behavior (e.g., when teaching the function of an object, the teacher says, “What do you drink with?” while holding his hand to his mouth shaping it like a cup).

Positional prompt. The teacher places the target item in a location that is closer to the child (e.g., when teaching the child to label “toy,” the teacher places the toy closest to the child).

Time-delay or prompt-delay techniques (Walker, 2008). This instructional procedure is proven to be effective, especially for children with AU. When teaching a novel task, time delay is used to transfer the stimulus control from a controlling prompt to a natural prompt by placing varying amounts of time between a controlling prompt and a natural prompt. Given different lengths of time delay, time delay strategies are categorized into constant time delay (CTD) and progressive time delay (PTD). CTD indicates that there is a standard time delay whereas PTD has a graduated delay. The procedures of time delay strategy begin with a zero-second (0-s) delay trial, meaning the controlling prompt is presented with task instruction at the same time without any delay in between. Gradually, to fade the prompt, time delay is increased between the natural prompt (task direction) and the controlling prompt.

Not all prompts in the hierarchy need to be used when teaching a skill. Prompts should be chosen based on which ones are most effective for a particular child. Prompts should be faded systematically and as quickly as possible to avoid prompt dependency. Overall, the goal of using prompts is to help the child independently perform the desired behavior.


Implementation Checklist

Resource List

Antecedent Prompting for Children with Autism:

This TeacherVision® article presents information on using prompting in the classroom. Autism Internet Modules: Prompting:

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Evidence-Based Practice Brief: Prompting:

Evidence-Base Practice Brief contains an overview, step-by-step directions for implementation, an implementation checklist and the evidence base for the intervention.

What Is Prompting?

This article answers the basic question in a clear, well-written manner.


Josh was learning to match objects with names. The teacher started with verbal and gestural prompts. She said, “It is time for drawing, and we need some crayons to draw with.” She looked at the crayons on the table and pointed at them, saying, “These are crayons.” Then she pointed at the crayons and asked Josh, “What are these?” After Josh responded “Crayons,” the teacher nodded her head and said, “These are crayons! Good job, Josh!”

To fade prompts, the teacher gradually moved from verbal and gestural prompts to only positional prompts. For example, the next time the teacher placed the crayons on the table near Josh, she said, “We need some crayons to draw with. Josh, show me the crayons.” Josh pointed to the crayons correctly and received a point on his token board.

Summary (for parents, administrators, direct service providers, etc.)

Prompting is used to increase desired behaviors and skill acquisition. When delivering prompts, the instructor should be mindful of the student’s learning level and fading considerations. Reinforcement should occur after a correct response and should be contingent upon the level of performance independence desired.


1.Bennett, K. D., Gutierrez, A., &Honsberger, T. (2013). A comparison of video prompting with and without voice-over narration on the clerical skills of adolescents with Autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(10), 1273-1281.

This study included four high school students with ASD and compared video prompting with and without voiceover directions for completing office tasks (making copies, making labels and labeling items, and sending a fax). While there was no difference in task performance

2.Burke, R., Allen, K., Howard, M., Downey, D., Matz, M., & Bowen, S. (2013). Tablet-based video modeling and prompting in the workplace for individuals with autism. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 38(1), 1-14.

In this study, four young adults with ASD were trained in a typical job training program to complete a 104-step process for shipping a package. Baseline data were taken after training. Then, a video prompting/modeling intervention was put into place that showed the participant completing each step of the process and included a checklist. All participants showed increases in accuracy. Three out of four met mastery criteria during the intervention. However, no maintenance data were collected.

3.Gardner, S., & Wolfe, P. (2013). Use of video modeling and video prompting interventions for teaching daily living skills to individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A review. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 38(2), 73-87.

This systematic review included 13 studies and 38 participants with autism and other co-occurring diagnosis. Video prompting was shown in all cases to increase accuracy of responding and that considerations for implementing a video prompting intervention are as follows: efficacy of point of view (the student or an instructor), planning for fading video prompts, possible voiceovers to videos, verbal or other prompting for student during video, using feedback/reinforcement during the completion of steps after video prompting among others.

4.Johnson, J., Blood, E., Freeman, A., & Simmons, K. (2013). Evaluating the effectiveness of teacher-implemented video prompting on an iPod touch to teach food-preparation skills to high school students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities, 28(3), 147-158.

In this study, two students with ASD in high school were taught to complete food-preparation steps in their Special Education classroom using an iPod Touch with video prompting. Both students increased their independent task completion and the teacher found it to be a practical, effective and efficient strategy for teaching these skills.

5.Mechling, L. C., Ayres, K. M., Foster, A. L., & Bryant, K. J. (2013). Comparing the effects of commercially available and custom-made video prompting for teaching cooking skills to high school students with autism. Remedial and Special Education, 34(6), 371-383.

In this study, a commercially-available and a custom-made video prompting procedure were compared to see which was more effective at teaching four high school students with ASD to complete cooking tasks in their Special Education classroom. For all participants, accuracy increased using both videos. However, the custom-made video prompt sessions had students completing more steps independently and correctly.

6.Shrestha, A., Anderson, A., & Moore, D. W. (2013). Using point-of-view video modeling and forward chaining to teach a functional self-help skill to a child with autism. Journal of Behavioral Education, 22(2), 157-167.

In this study, a four-year-old boy with ASD was taught using video prompting and forward chaining to serve himself a snack. He mastered this task, but the effects did not generalize to other snacks.

7.Yakubova, G., & Taber-Doughty, T. (2013). Effects of video modeling and verbal prompting on social skills embedded within a purchasing activity for students with autism. Journal of Special Education Technology, 28(1), 35-47.

Three middle school students with ASD were taught to complete purchasing tasks at a grocery store using verbal prompting and video modeling. All students met mastery criteria at the first grocery store, one student generalized to another grocery store and two others showed variable generalization.

8.Yanardag, M., Akmanoglu, N., &Yilmaz, I. (2013). The effectiveness of video prompting on teaching aquatic play skills for children with autism. Disability and Rehabilitation: An International, Multidisciplinary Journal, 35(1), 47-56.

Three children with ASD were taught three aquatic play skills using video prompting/modeling. All three students increased levels of the targeted aquatic play skills and increased their overall motor performance scores.

9.Bereznak, S., Ayres, K. M., Mechling, L. C., & Alexander, J. L. (2012). Video self-prompting and mobile technology to increase daily living and vocational independence for students with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Developmental And Physical Disabilities, 24(3), 269-285.

Video prompting using an iPhone was used to teach vocational and daily living skills (washing clothes, making copies and making noodles) to three students with ASD in high school Special Education setting. All three students showed increased percentage of independently completed correct steps. Two students were able to teach themselves two of the tasks independently with the video prompting.

10.Carp, C. L., Peterson, S. P., Arkel, A. J., Petursdottir, A. I., &Ingvarsson, E. T. (2012). A Further evaluation of picture prompts during auditory-visual conditional discrimination training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(4), 737-751.

Two children with ASD were taught auditory-visual conditional discrimination using picture prompts embedded in a least-to-most prompting sequence. Both students showed enhanced acquisition on tasks, but tacting (labeling) was not improved.

11.Fentress, G. M., &Lerman, D. C. (2012). A Comparison of two prompting procedures for teaching basic skills to children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(3), 1083-1090.

This study compared two types of prompting methods (Most-to-least and no-no-prompting) with four children with autism. The NNP method sessions had faster acquisition, but most-to-least sessions resulted in fewer errors and higher performance during 1- and 2-week maintenance probes for three of the four participants.

12.Hume, K., Plavnick, J., & Odom, S. (2012). Promoting task accuracy and independence in students with autism across educational setting through the use of individual work systems. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(10), 2084-2099.

This research assessed the impact of an individual work system on the accuracy of task completion and level of adult prompting across educational setting. Student accuracy and adult prompting were measured in both special and general education settings during academic work periods. Work systems, an element of structured teaching developed by Division TEACCH, are organized sets of visual information that inform a student about participation in work areas. A multiple-probe-across-participants design was used to evaluate the effects of the individual work systems. All participants demonstrated increased accuracy yet required less adult support across special and general education settings. Results were maintained when measured during a 1-month follow-up probe.

13.Knox, M., Rue, H. C., Wildenger, L., Lamb, K., & Luiselli, J. K. (2012). Intervention for food selectivity in a specialized school setting: Teacher implemented prompting, reinforcement, and demand fading for an adolescent student with autism. Education and Treatment of Children, 35(3), 407-417.

Food selectivity is a common problem among children and youth who have intellectual and developmental disabilities or autism spectrum disorders. Whereas most intervention research has been conducted under simulated conditions in clinic and hospital settings, this study evaluated teacher implemented procedures at a specialized school. The participant was an adolescent girl who had autism, chronic food selectivity, and disruptive mealtime behavior. Before intervention, she ate a restrictive diet comprised primarily of "crunchy" foods. During intervention, teachers applied paced-prompting, differential positive reinforcement, and demand fading to gradually increase the quantity of novel foods the girl consumed. Her improved consumption maintained seven-months post-intervention. We discuss elements of the intervention plan and a focus on natural-setting feeding research.

14.Kodak, T., Fuchtman, R., & Paden, A. (2012). A comparison of intra verbal training procedures for children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(1), 155-160.

This study compared the effectiveness of three training procedures, echoic and tact prompting plus error correction and a cues-pause-point (CPP) procedure, for increasing intraverbals in two children with autism. The study also measured echoic behavior that may have interfered with appropriate question answering. Results indicated that echoic prompting with error correction was most effective and the CPP procedure was least effective for increasing intraverbals and decreasing echoic behavior.

15.Marion, C., Martin, G. L., Yu, C. T., Buhler, C., Kerr, D., &Claeys, A. (2012). Teaching children with autism spectrum disorder to mand for Information using "Which?" Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(4), 865-870.

Three children with ASD were taught to mand for information about an item using “which” during in-home treatment sessions. All three children learned this mand and maintained this skill over time and generalized this skill to other locations and situations.

16.Marion, C., Martin, G., Yu, C. C., Buhler, C., & Kerr, D. (2012). Teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to mand 'where?'. Journal of Behavioral Education, 21(4), 273-294.

A modified multiple-baseline design across participants was used to evaluate a procedure for teaching the mand 'Where?' to three children with autism. The participants were 3- and 5-year-olds and were participating in an intensive applied behavior analysis program. The participants were able to mand for items they wanted when the items were not in sight but were unable to ask where an item was located. The procedure consisted of a preference assessment for play activities, contrived conditioned motivating operations (CMO's), prompting the children to mand 'Where,' and consequences for correct and incorrect responding. Each contrived CMO consisted of an opportunity for the child to mand 'Where' while playing with a selected activity, prompting the child to mand, and reinforcing a correct response by answering the question 'Where.' Two of the participants learned to mand 'Where' after training with one CMO and the mand generalized to novel contrived situations, activities, and the natural environment and was maintained over time (up to 4-weeks), whereas one participant required training with a second CMO before generalization occurred.

17.Mims, P. J., Hudson, M. E., & Browder, D. M. (2012). Using read-alouds of grade-level biographies and systematic prompting to promote comprehension for students with moderate and severe developmental disabilities. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 27(2), 67-80.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a modified system of least intrusive prompts on text-dependent listening comprehension for four middle-school-aged students with intellectual disability and autism during read-alouds of adapted grade-level biographies. A system of least intrusive prompts was modified by inserting a rule for answering “Wh” questions and an opportunity to hear sections of the biography again. The procedure was evaluated via a multiple probe design across students. Outcomes indicate that all students improved listening comprehension after intervention and all students maintained high levels of correct responding two weeks after intervention. In addition, three students generalized skills to new biographies. The need for future research and implications for practice are discussed.

18.Odluyurt, S., Tekin-Iftar, E., &Adalioglu, I. (2012). Does treatment integrity matter in promoting learning among children with developmental disabilities? Topics In Early Childhood Special Education, 32(3), 143-150.

The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of simultaneous prompting instruction with high and low treatment integrity on the learning of children with developmental disabilities. Low treatment integrity was defined as not delivering a controlling prompt during 30% of the teaching trials. Three preschool children with autism and intellectual disabilities were taught to identify objects and professions in the study. An adapted alternating treatments design was used to compare the effectiveness and efficiency of simultaneous prompting instruction conducted with high versus low treatment integrity. The results showed that both conditions were effective in promoting learning. However, consistent data were not obtained for efficiency measures across children.

19.Pennington, R. C., Stenhoff, D. M., Gibson, J., &Ballou, K. (2012). Using simultaneous prompting to teach computer-based story writing to a student with autism. Education and Treatment of Children, 35(3), 389-406.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects simultaneous prompting and computer-assisted instruction on story writing responses of a 7-year-old male with autism. Data indicated that the intervention was effective in teaching the participant to construct stories related to three different topics. Additionally, the student maintained responding at 2 and 4 weeks following intervention and increased responding across different topographies (i.e., handwriting, vocal).

20.Valentino, A., Shillingsburg, A.M., Call, N.A. (2012). Comparing the effects of echoic prompts and echoic prompts plus modeled prompts on intraverbal behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 431-435.

This study compared strategies to teach vocal intraverbal responses to an adolescent diagnosed with autism and Down syndrome. One strategy involved echoic prompts only. The second strategy involved an echoic prompt paired with a modeled prompt in the form of sign language. Presenting the modeled prompt with the echoic prompt resulted in faster acquisition of correct responding.

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