Prompts can be defined as additional “cues” delivered following an instruction, designed to help a student learn what the appropriate response is in a certain situation (i.e. respond correctly). Prompts are an essential teaching tool; using them supports efficient learning and lowers frustration.

Types of Prompts

Response Prompts

  • Prompts that directly impact the student’s response
  • Arranged in a hierarchy from the most intrusive to the least intrusive
  • Differentiated between Motor Response Prompts and Verbal Response Prompts

Motor Response Prompts

Verbal Response Prompts

Full Physical (Hand-over-hand)

Instructor physically moves the student’s limb(s) to perform the target response


Instructor states the correct verbal response for the student to echo/repeat

Partial Physical

Instructor physically assists the student to initiate the response, but the student completes the target response independently


Instructor demonstrates the target response for the student to imitate

Partial Echoic

Instructor provides part of the verbal response for the student to complete


Instructor points to/taps/looks at the target item/limb to help the student initiate the target response


A visual (e.g. picture, checklist, written instruction) that shows or reminds the student what to do is provided


Instructor provides a written/visual representation of the verbal response for the student to read

Instructional Sequence


Stimulus Prompts

  • Any change embedded in the stimulus itself that helps the learner make the desired response

Positional Prompts

Redundancy Cues

  • The target stimulus is placed in a way that makes it more likely for the student to select it (e.g. closer to the student, near their dominant hand)
  • One or more dimensions of the stimulus (such as shape, size, color) are exaggerated to indicate it is the correct stimulus


Prompting Strategies

Most-to-Least Prompting

Least-to-Most Prompting

Time Delay


  • The instructor provides whatever prompts necessary for the student to complete the skill successfully. Over time, the prompt type is gradually decreased (towards less intrusive prompts) until the student performs the skill independently (i.e. without prompts)
  • The instructor provides a sequence of prompts that starts with the least intrusive prompt and gradually progresses to more intrusive prompts as the student does not respond correctly within a specified time


  • A procedure used to fade prompts and promote independent responding by inserting a brief delay between the natural instruction/cue and the prompt
  •  The time delay can either be constant or progressive

When to use it

  • Teaching a new skill
  • Determining a student’s current skills
  • Generalizing a learned skill to a new context
  • Promoting independent responding
  • Prompt Dependence
  • A situation in which a response only occurs in the presence of a prompt instead of the cue that is expected to evoke the response. Prompt dependence usually happens when there are no prompt fading strategies put in place aimed at working towards independence (such as Most-to-Least Prompting and Time Delay).
  • Inadvertent Prompting
  • A situation in which an instructor provides prompts to a student without meaning to. This can lead the instructor to believe that a student has learned a skill, but in fact, the student has learned to attend to a prompt rather than the appropriate cue. This can result in a premature termination of a teaching program, leaving the student without having acquired the skill.
  • Related Resources:
  • ES Training Team Video models. (2015, June 30). Prompt fading motor response BITE SIZE. Retrieved from
  • Mims, P. (2011). Prompting systems. Modules Addressing Special Education and Teacher Education (MAST). Greenville, NC: East Carolina University. Retrieved from
  • Sam, A., & AFIRM Team. (2015). Prompting. Chapel Hill, NC: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina. Retrieved from