“Incidental Teaching” is an interaction between an adult and child that occurs in a natural situation or setting which can be used to give the child an opportunity to practice a skill. Many practitioners of Applied Behavior Analysis believe that Incidental Teaching can be used as a primary teaching approach for children with autism instead of Discrete Trial teaching when discrete trials are not successful or not challenging.Some students are more successful when incidental teaching techniques are used.
The advantages of using the Incidental Teaching method:
* Skills may be learned faster because they have meaning to the learner (function and purpose).
* The learner is exposed to varied prompting methods and reinforcers
* Teaching is implemented in a natural setting and no additional materials are needed.
* Using this technique helps teachers sharpen their skills and “think on their feet”.
The disadvantages of using the Incidental Teaching method are:
* The teacher may not have the skills to recognize a “teachable moment” or have the ability to capture and manipulate the learner’s motivation to create a teachable moment.
* The teacher must have full knowledge of the learner’s current abilities
* The learner must have prerequisite skills to benefit from Incidental Teaching (including attention skills and ability to accept different types of prompting).
The procedures used in the Incidental Teaching method are important. A natural environment must be arranged to attract the learner to the desired material (contriving an opportunity).
Depending on the learner, the arrangement of the environment may be minimal or extensive. The learner guides the session by his/her own interests or motivation in a topic, object or activity. At this point, the teacher uses whatever the learner has shown an interest in to teach or elaborate on an already known skill. For example, if a young child shows an interest in pushing a toy car back and forth, the teacher could teach the child to elaborate on this skill by showing the child a ramp and how to push the car up and over the ramp.
There are several prerequisite skills for learners that are needed for Incidental Teaching:
* Ability to follow basic instructions
* Ability to respond to many different prompting methods
* Well-developed imitation skills
* Adequate frustration tolerance and acceptance of delayed gratification
* Interest in many different environmental stimuli
Incidental Teaching may be used to teach functional communication skills. Here are some tips and suggestions to facilitate communication:
Tips for teaching commenting skills:
* Pretend to call or mildly hurt yourself (Say “owww”)
* Say something that is incorrect and prompt the correction. For example, eat a cookie and say “This is a good apple”.
* Illicit a compliment: Say “I just got a new haircut” or “This is a new shirt”.
* Illicit inquiries: Say “I feel sick today” or “I have a new toy in my bag”.
* Have many people make comments about an activity you are all playing or a meal you are all eating (modeling).
Tips for teaching appropriate escape/avoidance from an undesirable activity:
* Put an unwanted or undesirable item in front of or with the learner.
* Offer unwanted or undesirable food to the learner.
Tips for teaching requests for information:
* Present the learner with partial information he/she needs in order to complete a task or gain access to a reinforcer/desired object
* Present important information in a very low voice so the learner can barely hear you and needs you to repeat the information
With creativity and flexibility, educators can incorporate Incidental Teaching into a successful, nurturing learning environment.