Elementary - Para Training

Presented by the Seward Autism Team

Prompting & Prompt Fading

Prompting & Prompt Dependency

  • Prompts increase the effectiveness of teaching by decreasing the likelihood of incorrect responses (errorless learning).
  • Prompts should be used as minimal as possible.
  • Prompts should be faded as quickly as possible.
  • Prompt Dependency: when a student waits for the prompt from the adult, even though the skill may be mastered. You MUST fade prompts to prevent prompt dependency.

Prompt Fading

Generally, when we are starting to teach a new skill, we would use most to least prompting. It’s important, however, to use the least amount of prompting in any situation.

(1 = least or weakest, 5 most or greatest)

  1. Positional and/or natural cue
  2. Gestural and/or indirect cue
  3. Modeling (demonstrating picking up the block – used when teaching imitation skills), pointing cue, and/or verbal cue
  4. Partial Physical (touching elbow to guide child to the block)
  5. Full Physical (HOH)

Video - Start at 45 sec end around 3 minutes.

Sheldon Shaping Penny in Big Bang Theory


  • Sit behind child when using physical prompting. Don't build yourself into the activity.
  • Encourage student to follow directions of the classroom teacher, not just the para.
  • Allow student to make personal choices when appropriate (i.e. who student works with, color of marker to use)
  • Encourage student to carry own materials to, from, and within the classroom. Build responsibility.
  • Find opportunities for student to be independent (i.e. art projects, standing in line with peers)

Interactions with others:

  • Encourage peers/adults to direct questions to child, not para.
  • Encourage student to answer at the best of his/her ability.
  • Clarify vs. Answer for student


  • If unable to carry lunch tray, allow student to be responsible for carrying something (i.e. milk, fork, etc.)
  • Entering own lunch number
  • Making own choices on salad bar
  • Allow student to sit with peers as independently as possible. Reduced peer interaction can occur if adult is always sitting with student.


  • How independent can student be? Put on/take off coat and backpack
  • Establish routine and fade prompting
  • Greeting peers & adults


  • Think about location- Is student capable of using the public bathroom vs. nurse or resource room?
  • Think prompt fading- Does student need adult in the bathroom or are we over prompting a common routine?

*Think long-term for our students. Where do we see them in 5, 10, 15... years. The earlier we help our students gain independence, the more successful they will be down the road!

Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Classrooms: Increasing Student Learning and Independence

Consistency of Words

  • Less is more. Keep your instructions simple:)
  • Plus one strategy: only use one more word than the child uses in their regular speech patterns. If the child's sentences are typically 3 words in length then your directions should be 4 words in length or less.
  • Use a tone of voice that matches the child's age

Picture Schedules

Why picture schedules?
  • Helps the child know what is coming next
  • Increases the child's independence which builds self-esteem
  • Develops a positive routine of looking for information, increasing their flexibility and ability to cope with changes
  • It helps the individual to learn new things and broaden their interests
  • It provides tools that allow the individual to use skills in a variety of settings
  • It can increase the student's flexibility
  • It helps the individual remain calm and reduces inappropriate behaviors

How to use visual/picture schedules:

1. Give a standard phrase (e.g., “Check you schedule”)
2. Prompt the individual (from behind) to go to the schedule OR look at the schedule
3. Prompt the individual to look at or point to the first activity
4. Prompt the individual to go to the location of the first activity
5. When the activity is over, give the standard phrase again and prompt the individual back to the schedule