What Is Errorless Teaching and Why Should You Use It?

May 10, 2013

Errorless Teaching is a teaching procedure in which the child is prompted to make the correct response immediately, ensuring a correct response each time. The prompt is then slowly faded in order to promote accuracy with the least amount of errors and frustration.

For example, if you are teaching your child to mand (request) for you to spin them in a chair using a manual sign for spin, begin by placing them in the chair and giving them a few spins for free.

  • Stop the spinning, and assuming that your child makes some indication that they want more spinning, prompt their hand and arm to make the sign for spin (while saying “spin”) and immediately spin them.
  • Now, continue this procedure until the child no longer resists your physical prompting and begins to at least partially assist in the sign. It’s now time for fading.
  • Fade your prompts by first releasing the amount of pressure that you use to guide their hand/arm. Also, fade your prompt by prompting farther and farther away from the child’s hand, up their arm to their shoulder.
  • Once all that is required is a light initial touch to initiate the sign, you can promote independence by providing a small delay, .5 seconds, before initiating the touch prompt. Remember that since we are teaching requesting, you should always ensure that your child is strongly motivated to receive the item or activity.

With children who can echo words, you can modify the above procedure to teach them vocal requests. For example, if your child is speaking and reliably echoes what you say, immediately say the word “spin” and if your child says “spin,” immediately spin them. Fade the prompt across an increasing time-delay (begin by waiting for the response to occur for .5 seconds and increasing to 1 second if necessary).

Errorless Teaching has advantages to a more typical teaching style which allows errors and then provides prompting as a correction procedure.

  • Motivation: Prompting is being paired with correct responding and faster reinforcement. This in turn conditions prompting to be pleasant for the child. When prompting is done as part of a correction procedure, the opposite effect can occur and prompting can become aversive to the child.
  • Accuracy: Prompting ensures accuracy and a history of reinforcement for correct responding. This in turn reduces errors and the possibility of accidently reinforcing errors or inappropriate behavior that may occur to avoid or escape the task demands.

Errorless Teaching may be right for your child if…

  • Your child is just beginning to learn to communicate
  • Your child has a history of difficulty with learning that type of task
  • Your child has a history of engaging in inappropriate behavior to escape or avoid the learning environment and physical prompting

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