Finding Your Child’s Inner Voice Using Incidental Teaching
Teaching a young child with autism requires a high degree of understanding and care. Conventional methods of teaching, such as the standard classroom setting where one person speaks while everyone else listens and is expected to comprehend everything, may not always be as effective as this tool called “Incidental Teaching.” Incidental Teaching was created to help children with autism develop their play and language skills.
What is Incidental Teaching?
Incidental teaching involves creating an environment in which the child’s interests are taken into consideration and are used as motivational tools. This process maximizes learning opportunities through day-to-day activities.
An instructor places a train set on top of a cabinet.
When the child points or walks towards the cabinet, the instructor prompts the child to say “train.”
Once the child says “train,” he gets access to the train set.
Steps to Incidental Teaching
- Study The Child: To make the most of this method, it is important for the teacher to understand the child, their natural behavior, and their interests. It is crucial that the teacher understands not only their positive behavior but also their areas of improvement.
- Create The Right Environment: Next, as a teacher, you must set up an effective teaching environment that will embrace the Incidental Teaching method. Use props, materials, and activities that will prompt the child to initiate conversation. Make sure that these materials and activities are of interest to the child. Then place the items out of reach. Why? This will create a motivating operation as the child cannot go access the item themselves without the need to communicate with the teacher. For instance, for young children developing their language skills, the teacher could create this environment by displaying a number of different toys, musical instruments, or books on a table.
- Get The Child To Initiate: With Incidental Teaching, the most important person is the child, who is playing the most prominent role in this process. Interactions are started by the child, not the teacher.
- Prompting The Child: If the child does not initiate, the teacher will then help by prompting them through asking questions such as: “Would you like to play?”, “What would you like to do?”, etc. Another method is to provide the child with nonverbal cues such as pointing to an object to help the child initiate a move. This method tends to be the most effective for children with autism.
- If The Child Does Not Speak Up: If the child does not independently communicate after initial prompting has been attempted, then commence “The System of Least Prompts.” This system refers to “least intrusive prompts” which are non-verbal cues such as shrugging as you wait for the child to communicate or pointing to the object they desire. To gradually increase assistance, the teacher can then proceed with asking them what the item is or modeling to the child what you want him/her to do. If the child is still unresponsive, the teacher can say the words you would like them to learn out loud such as: “This is a guitar.”
- Offer Positive Reinforcement: When the child responds correctly, reward them with access to the object or activity that is being used to reinforce Incidental Teaching. For example, if a guitar is being used in the Incidental Teaching technique, then allow the child to play with the guitar once they have identified the instrument. For him/her to gain access to any particular object laid out on the activity table, they will need to first name it. If he/she wants to play the guitar, then they will need to say so by stating “Please give me the guitar” or “May I have the guitar?” Over time they will learn to form compound sentences like these with ease.
Benefits of Incidental Teaching
By putting the responsibility on the child, it is not possible for him/ her to be a passive bystander. For them to learn, they will have to take the first step. It reinforces a culture of ‘learning by doing’. By applying the child’s knowledge, behavior, vocabulary along with correct usage of the items displayed, they are able to reinforce their established language skills. While at first prompting may be needed, unprompted language usage has strong potential to be gradually observed. Learners will move from interacting with their teacher to interacting with a wider audience such as their peers. This will encourage them to adapt and communicate their needs in various settings which will help them implement their newly gained knowledge and skills. For more information please visit our BHW services page.
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