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Teaching Adaptive Skills to People with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Adaptive skills=skills for daily life. Enable greater independence therefore less reliance on staff/family for basic needs give a sense of success. Teaching functional adaptive skills. Should be done in real life environments

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Teaching Adaptive Skills to People with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Teaching adaptive skills to people with autism spectrum disorders

Teaching Adaptive Skills to People with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Adaptive skills skills for daily life

Adaptive skills=skills for daily life

Enable greater independence therefore less reliance on staff/family for basic needs

give a sense of success

Teaching functional adaptive skills

Teaching functional adaptive skills

Should be done in real life environments

Should focus on skills the person needs in their day to day life


Self Help


Having fun

Basic principles

Basic Principles

We are all dependent on context, environmental cues, prompts and reinforcement in order for us to learn new skills

Often for people with ASD, we need to make the context, prompts and reinforcement much more obvious in order that learning can take place

Structured vs naturalistic teaching

Structured vs. naturalistic teaching

Chris makes a cuppa

Chris makes a cuppa

Group exercise

Group exercise:

  • Discuss the following points in relation to the video clip:

  • The learning environment

  • The skills that Chris has now

  • Skills he could learn

  • Provide brief feedback

  • Don’t get into discussion about teaching methods, that comes later!

Teaching methods

Teaching Methods

Three common teaching methods

Discrete Trial Training

Incidental/Naturalistic Teaching

Structured Teaching

Steps to successful teaching

Steps to successful teaching

Observe the person attempting the task & record where they need support

Have a clear & measurable goal

Break the task into manageable steps

Use knowledge of person & task to decide teaching method

Have a system for measuring success

Techniques useful to all approaches

Techniques useful to all approaches

Task Analysis




Task analysis

Task Analysis

Breaking down a task into manageable steps

Rule of thumb: The more disabled the person is, the smaller the steps should be

Steps should be described in clear and unambiguous language



Refers to the order in which the steps are taught

Forward Chaining=Start to Finish

Backward Chaining=Finish to Start

Global Chaining=Start at easiest step











What motivates the person to learn the skill?

  • Naturally occurring consequence

  • Adding an extra

Discrete trial teaching

Discrete Trial Teaching

Task is broken into steps (task analysis)

The same prompt is used for each attempt

Reinforcement is given on completion of task

If task is not completed=failed trial, try again later

Frequent repetition, referred to as drills

Discrete trial teaching components

Discrete Trial Teaching: Components

  • the discriminative stimulus (SD)-- the instruction or environmental cue to which the teacher would like the individual to respond

  • the prompting stimulus (SP)-- a prompt or cue from the teacher to help the individual respond correctly (optional)

  • the response (R)-- the skill or behavior that is the target of the instruction, or a portion thereof

  • the reinforcing stimulus (SR)-- a reward designed to motivate the individual to respond and respond correctly

  • the inter-trial interval (ITI)-- a brief pause between consecutive trials

Dtt with adults

DTT with adults

Not a preferred method for most adults, but useful for adults with ASD and intellectual disability for:

  • Teaching a work related skill that involves lots of repetition e.g. sorting recycling, assembly line work

  • “Academic” tasks such as learning to use PECS or sign language

Discrete trial teaching brian learns to use pecs card for a biscuit

Discrete Trial Teaching: Brian learns to use PECS card for a biscuit

  • the discriminative stimulus (SD)-- teacher says “time for a biscuit Brian” and puts the biscuit jar on the table

  • the prompting stimulus (SP)– Teacher says “Biscuit, Brian” accompanied by the pointing to the biscuit card.

  • the response (R)– Brian touches the biscuit card.

  • the reinforcing stimulus (SR)– Teacher says, “Well done Brian, and offers him a biscuit from the jar.

  • Repeat 3 times

Dtt group exercise

DTT group exercise

In your group

  • Identify a simple skill that would suit the DTT approach

  • Put together a teaching plan that has the

    • discriminative stimulus (initial prompt)

    • prompting stimulus (specific prompt)

    • response (the behaviour/skill)

    • reinforcer

Naturalistic incidental teaching

Naturalistic/Incidental teaching

Uses “in the moment” opportunities that occur in daily life

Uses prompts that are known to be successful for that person.

Not just random, opportunities for learning are planned

Hierarchy of prompts

Hierarchy of Prompts

Also known as Graduated Assistance

Can be used in “Most to Least” or “Least to Most” formats

More “natural” in appearance

Hierarchy of prompts least to most rob at the photocopier

Hierarchy of Prompts: Least to Most, Rob at the photocopier

INDIRECT VERBAL (IV):  What do you need to do next Rob?

DIRECT VERBAL (DV): Rob, put the paper on the tray, writing side upwards

GESTURE: Point to the tray on the photocopier

MODELING: Put the paper in the tray yourself so that Rob can observe

PARTIAL PHYSICAL ASSIST (PPA): Pass Rob the paper to be copied and guide him by the elbow to place the paper in the tray

FULL PHYSICAL ASSIST (FPA): Hand-over-hand assistance to put the paper in the tray

Group exercise1

Group Exercise

Discuss how you would go about finding which type of prompts were most effective for a person with ASD and severe intellectual disability.

Creating opportunity

Creating Opportunity

Identify the natural reinforcers for people and take advantage of those opportunities where a natural reinforcer is occurs

Structured teaching

Structured Teaching

Uses the teaching methods of task analysis, prompting, chaining, reinforcement

A key aspect of the TEACCH approach

Doesn’t have a strong evidence base as an overall concept, but the component parts do

Jim plants tomato seeds

Jim plants tomato seeds

Homework challenge

Homework Challenge


Mangers, identify how you can support your staff to assist people with ASD to increase their daily living/work skills

Support staff/Therapists: Identify a person you work with, find out what type of prompts they respond best to and teach this to your colleagues

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