Teaching
Life Skills

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Definition of Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Life Skills is a teaching procedure utilized to teach functional skills that includes the use of instructional cues, positive reinforcement, response prompts and error correction.

Instructional Cue: A direction given by the staff member that tells the learner what the learner is expected to do. Instructional cues should be easily understood; phrased as commands, not questions; delivered only when the learner is paying attention; and given one time, to cue the learner to perform the skill.

Reinforcement: The procedure of providing consequences for a behavior that increase or maintain the frequency of that behavior. This basic principle of behavior is called Positive Reinforcement. In Teaching Life Skills, the staff member provides a reinforcer (e.g. Behavior Specific Praise) immediately following the learner’s completion of the desired skill/behavior, in order to “strengthen” that skill/behavior.

Response Prompts: Assistance given to help the learner perform a skill or behavior. Response prompts are used to “get the behavior going.” The four types of response prompts are: Gestural, Verbal, Model and Physical. Prompts can be used alone or combined as part of a Prompt Hierarchy (e.g. least-to-most or most-to-least). Physical prompts can include partial-physical and full-physical. Verbal prompts should be used sparingly or not at all.

Error Correction: A procedure that involves gently stopping the error and providing as much assistance as the learner needs (at the part of the skill where the error was made) to perform the skill without making another error.

Rules for Delivering Reinforcement when Teaching Life Skills

Guidelines for Using Prompts when Teaching Life Skill

Rules for Correcting Errors when Teaching Life Skills

Common Mistakes in Error Correction

Steps for Teaching Life Skills

  1. Get the learner's attention.
  2. Give the instructional cue and wait 3 seconds for a response.
  3. Deliver Reinforcement/Prompting/Error Correction
    1. If a correct response occurs, deliver reinforcement upon the learner’s completion of the skill.
    2. If no response occurs after 3-5 seconds, prompt the learner as needed to perform the desired response. Then deliver reinforcement upon the learner’s completion of the skill.
    3. If an error occurs within 3-5 seconds, stop the behavior. Re-state the instructional cue (start over), and provide a more assistive prompt where the error was made, to prevent the learner from repeating the error. Allow the learner to perform any actions/steps he can perform independently. Then deliver reinforcement upon the learner’s completion of the skill.

Using a Task Analysis to Teach Complex Behaviors

  1.  Get the learner’s attention.
  2. Give the instructional cue to complete the task and wait 3 seconds for a response.
  3. Allow the learner to perform those steps of the task he/she can perform independently; and prompt the learner to perform the remaining steps of the task, as needed.
  4. If an error occurs, stop the behavior; start the task over by re-stating the instructional cue and provide a more assistive prompt where the error was made to prevent the learner from repeating the error.
  5. Deliver reinforcement upon the learner’s completion of the task.
Sample Task Analysis: Wiping Mouth with a Napkin
  1. Pick up napkin
  2. Bring napkin to face
  3. Wipe napkin across mouth and face
  4. Lower napkin
  5. Release napkin

Rules for Delivering Reinforcement when Teaching from a Task Analysis