Saturday, November 17, 2007

Educational Technique #5: Stepping Back

Stepping back

I am going to make the claim that one of the universally agreed upon concepts in special education (or regular education for that matter) is scaffolding. Scaffolding is the idea that a learner begins in a situation of high prompts and high control and as s/he demonstrates mastery the prompts and controls are removed. One doesn’t usually hear of critiques of scaffolding. Yet, despite its popularity, fading the scaffold can be difficult.

There are multiple reasons it may be tough to fade a prompt back. Probably the biggest reason is habit. If we help a student practice writing their name with hand- over- hand guidance everyday then this might be difficult to be as vigilant as we should. This is especially true if we are in a hurry. And good scaffolding is very progressive. We would have to periodically try to offer gentler support to see what the student can do. And this is not just for the whole name, but even for small parts, maybe just for the curve in a lowercase “d”. I think it is easy to imagine a little support becoming a hindrance.

There are several ways around this. Probably the biggest way is to be diligent about testing fading back the assistance. A better way would be to set some sort of criteria for fading back. However this is also a lot of work. To do this means one has to do some sort of data collection on a daily basis. This is however, a systematic way to approach the problem. This is also the way I like to approach the issue. And remember this isn’t just true for handwriting.


Blogger Another Autism Mom said...

Before my son learnt to draw and write, he asked me to put my hand over his so he could feel the strokes. Once he had enough control to do it on his own, he just did it so I didn't even have to worry about fading. However now I'm starting to hold his hand a little when he's coloring. He still coloring way outside the lines of the picture, so I'm trying to show him he needs to have more control and attention to detail.

As for other areas of prompting/fading, the main challenge is to have him do it something that is not his immediate interest without offering him a reinforcer. Sometimes it seems it will take years before he gets dressed to go to school by himself (he can do it, but he won't unless I bribe him).

6:54 PM  
Blogger Another Autism Mom said...

Ouch, sorry about the typos.

6:55 PM  
Blogger KeithABA said...

"Another Autism Mom"

I think it is really great that you have noticed how much of a role motivation plays in behavior. You are absolutely correct that not only your son, but many children (particularly with autism) are not motivated to do things such as dressing.

I would like to just see if I can change your perception of the word "Bribe" because I hear that commonly.

1. Do you consider being paid at the end of the week bribing? Does work bribe you to come and work?

2. Is tipping someone at a restaurant, bribing them to give you good service?

Both these examples involve someone getting something contingent upon their behavior. The main difference is that in the first example, the individual knows what they are going to get. In the second example, the individual does not know what they are going to get. Both have profound effects on behavior and performance and thus motive an individual.

When I think of a bribe with kids, I think of this sort of scenario.
Kid is screaming, throwing a tantrum, dropped on the floor. Parent/therapist walk up with a (cookie, toy, m&m....) and then gives it to them to get them to stop. In a sense, the parent is bribing the kid to stop the challenging behavior.

This is very different than a contingency, something like saying, "After you get dressed, we can go watch t.v."

The child might not get dressed unless you included t.v. in part of the contract, but I don't consider that bribery, much like I don't consider work agreeing to pay me bribery.

I feel that this is an important point, but equally important is your point about how it can be very difficult to motivate a child (particularly one with autism) to do something they not really interested in. Just out of curiosity, have you ever tried token economies or a token board? Sometimes those strategies can really help because they not only signal that some other reinforcer will be available, but also how much longer until the individual is done with the task, dressing.

10:05 AM  

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