While ABA therapy sessions help your child get intensive practice of learning new skills, it is important that they also practice these skills outside of sessions so they can demonstrate these skills in different places and with different people. This practice throughout everyday life is called incidental teaching.
Before you start teaching a new skill:
When you are working on new skills, think of times that your child might typically need to perform this skill.
- Getting your attention when you are busy
- Putting shoes on before going outside
- Holding hands while walking to the shops
- Responding to their name while they are playing
- Responding to ‘stop’ when they are walking away
- Responding to ‘come here’ when they are far away
- Waiting for something while you get it ready
- Playing on their own while you are busy
We want to try to capture these everyday opportunities so we can practice the skills naturally
Think about some of your child’s favourite things, things they really enjoy or things they often ask for. Depending on your child’s skills you might be able to offer them different options by holding them out or asking what they would like.
You have already identified opportunities for when to practice this skill. You will also need to make sure the environment is set up (e.g. turn the TV off, make sure there is space for them, make sure the things they need are nearby) and that you are ready (e.g. that you are far away if you’re going to ask them to come here) and they are ready (e.g. they are walking around if you’re going to ask them to stop).
You might have to bend down to their level or place your hand over the toy they are playing with to make sure they are paying attention to you.
For some skills like getting them to respond to their name, come here or stop you might give the instruction when you don’t have their attention, as this is most likely when you would want your child to respond to these instructions.
Use clear, simple language to tell your child what you want them to do (e.g. say “sit down” rather than “go over to that chair over there and sit on your bottom”). Avoid repeating the instruction multiple times, because we want them to learn that they have to listen to you the first time. This is really important when we are teaching safety skills, because if we say “stop!” in a car park, we really need them to listen straight away.
If your child doesn’t respond within a few seconds, you might need to help them respond correctly. For example, you might show them what to do (e.g. you might sit down yourself) or point to something (e.g. point to the chair).
Once your child has followed the instruction to the best of their ability, give them lots of praise (e.g. “good job!”, “you did it!”) and the item you identified they wanted earlier