One great way to incorporate teaching into everyday situations is by embedding tasks into already existing daily routines. Embedded Instruction is an evidence-based practice that teaches skills by targeting them during naturally-occurring routines.
Benefits of embedded instruction:.
- Teaches new skills in the natural environment
- Promotes independence of skills in daily routines
- Enhances generalization and maintenance of taught skills
- Easy to use and the materials are already there
How to run this procedure:
- Choose a few activities or routines that your child takes part in daily (e.g. eating dinner, diaper change, taking a bath)
- Identify a few target skills that can be taught in each activity similar to the examples given below
- Make sure to provide reinforcement (see this blog on how to choose a reinforcer) as you teach each objective
· The child will ask for a preferred food, a necessary item such as a spoon, fork, or napkin, or will ask for help opening a container or package (manding skills)
· The child will learn to use a fork, spoon, or knife independently (fine motor/ daily living skills)
· The child will imitate wiping the table after dinner, help carry a plate to a sink, or throw away a napkin or plastic cup (imitation/ listener/ daily living skills)
· The child will ask for “potty” or “diaper” before being brought in to be changed (manding skills)
· The child can pull pants up and down (gross motor/ daily living skills)
· The child will learn to wash his or her hands after being changed (fine motor/ daily living skill)
Taking a Bath
· The child will assist in dressing/undressing (gross motor/ daily living skills)
· The child will label or select on command letters or floating toys that he or she plays with in the tub (tacting / listener skills)
· The child will give a bath to a baby doll or animal (functional play skills)
Many learning opportunities are often lost when children are passive during daily routines. As you can see, with embedded instruction, the child is given opportunities to be taught new skills and actively engage in steps in the routine, leading to the acquisition of new skills and more independent skills.
Two important notes:
1. For children who are accustomed to passively participating in the routine (e.g. mom gives a known preferred food, feeds the child, and lets them go play afterward), you may initially get some resistance when you start working on skills. In these situations, it is best to start with one objective and slowly increase the number of objectives you work on as the child’s tolerance increases.
2. Be prepared to provide prompting for new objectives, as your child may or may not have these skills in their repertoire.
a. If you are trying to gain a vocal response from your child (e.g. asking for their favorite food or labeling a bath toy), an echoic prompt (“say ________”) is most effective.
b. If you are providing a prompt for a motor skill (selecting bath toy, feeding self with fork, pulling pants up or down) an imitative prompt (“do this” + model) or a gentle physical prompt (hand over hand prompt) are most effective depending on your child’s skill set. If your child has deficits imitating others, physical prompts are going to be more effective.
For more information about naturalistic teaching opportunities, see Ed Littleton’s blog on using toys to teach. What examples of embedding instruction into daily routines can you think of? Leave a comment below!