How to Teach Vocational Skills Using Prompt Fading and Task Analysis

Washing Dishes Task Analysis
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There are many different levels of prompting that can be used when teaching new skills: Full Physical, Partial Physical, Full Verbal, Partial Verbal, Modeling, Gestural, or Visual Supports. Read more about chaining here. The level of prompting necessary to ensure a skill is learned appropriately must be fluently changed using prompt fading to achieve independence. As a child learns a new skill or increases their level of independence, it is encouraging for them to receive Differentiated Positive Reinforcement. This involves explicit descriptions of what the child is being praised for. For example: “Great job wiping the outside of that dish!” When these forms of appropriate prompting are paired with differentiated positive reinforcement and a task analysis, significant improvement can be seen.

Implementation and Example:

When teaching a student with autism or another significant disability a new vocational skill, the teacher needs to ensure they are prepared to increase the student’s independence. Prior to beginning the training process, the teacher should create an appropriate task analysis using picture, video, or text. You can download premade task analysis from our digital resource store. Once the task analysis is created, it is important to take a baseline analysis of the student’s current level of ability to complete the task and necessary prompts needed for each step. This provides visual and documented progress reports as the student increases their levels of independence. Once baseline levels are assessed, the task must be repeated numerous times in order to increase independence and mastery for the student. The initial prompt level will be determined by the student’s level of tolerance for physical and/or verbal prompting. It is preferred to work at the least intrusive prompt level, but if the student is not able to physically complete a step in the process, it is appropriate to physically prompt them for a short period of time. Prompt fading should be used to quickly move away from physical prompts and paired with differentiated positive reinforcements as they increase their level of independence for each step in the task.

Task Analysis Example: Washing Dishes

  DirectionsPromptNumber of Prompts
(note the type and tally total)
1Put soap in bucketI  Q  V  P  F G M 
2Turn on hot waterI  Q  V  P  F G M 
3Fill to lineI  Q  V  P  F G M 
4Turn off waterI  Q  V  P  F G M 
5Wash dishes insideI  Q  V  P  F G M 
6Wash dishes outsideI  Q  V  P  F G M 
7Wash edge of dishesI  Q  V  P  F G M 
8Rinse all soap off dishesI  Q  V  P  F G M 
9Put dish in drying rackI  Q  V  P  F G M 
(I) – Independent
(G) – Gesture (pointing),
(Q) – Indirect verbal/question
(V) – Direct verbal/statement
(P) – Partial physical/light touch
(F) – Full physical/hand-over-hand
(M) – Model

Additional steps may be added as needed and the task analysis should be modified to reflect the appropriate steps necessary to wash dishes in your specific setting.

As the student works on each step, they should receive differentiated positive reinforcement. Examples: “Wow! You put the soap in the bucket all on your own! “Great job rinsing all of the soap off the dish!”

As the student increases their level of independence, the teacher and student will see the improvements through data collection showing a reduction in prompts necessary to complete each step of the full task. This is prompt fading at work! The level of prompting should be decreased systematically as the student demonstrates independence. Once the student is completely independent it is helpful to have either a visual written or picture task analysis readily available for the student to reference as they complete the task on their own. See completed task analyses in our store.

To ensure maintenance of the newly learned skill, data should continue to be collected on an intermittent basis to analyze the student’s continued level of independence and accuracy in completing all steps in the task.

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Sarah Jimenez, MA, BCBA

Sarah Jimenez, MA, BCBA

Sarah Jimenez, MA, BCBA is a High School / Transition Moderate-Severe Special Education Teacher and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA# 1-19-35000). She received her bachelor's degree in Music and Political Science from the University of California in San Diego and Teaching Credential along with a Master's Degree in Special Education with an Emphasis in Autism from San Diego State University. She has been working in the field of Special Education and Behavior Analysis for over 6 years. She specializes in vocational skills, life skills, emotional management, and functional academics to help prepare students to be as independent and successful in their adult lives. She regularly provides training to support staff and teachers in her district about positive behavioral interventions using ABA techniques and other evidence-based practices.

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