Errorless Learning: When the Learner is Always Right…

Little Star Center (LSC) — created by a family of a child with autism — was the first in Indiana to employ Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment, which has long been considered the most effective intervention method for children with autism.  ABA features several instructional approaches for consideration when developing a learner’s personal program. One of the ABA evidence-based procedures used by the Little Star clinical team is ‘errorless learning’ or ‘errorless teaching.’ Errorless learning is a strategy to ensure independence in the learner and foster success by systematically fading out assistance. Learners (or all people, actually) , at times, become frustrated or discouraged if they make a mistake and may hesitate to try a skill again. Or, the learner learns a skill incorrectly, which then needs to be corrected. Frequently making errors or being asked to do work that is too difficult may provoke problem behavior such as tantrums, aggression or self-injury.

Errorless learning is the technique of making sure the learner provides the right answer to a question every time, reducing or eliminating mistakes.  A key element of errorless teaching is the therapist prompting the answer when the learner appears uncertain; increasing the likelihood the learner makes the correct response. Prompts are extra cues or hints to help the learner know what to do in a particular situation or time (including physical assistance, pointing, demonstrating, showing a picture, writing a checklist, or asking what the learner wants).  In addition to prompts, errorless learning uses positive reinforcement to assure the skill is performed again.

The process at Little Star sometimes involves flashcards with pictures or words on them or pointing to something. The learner is asked to identify the appropriate item, by matching, selecting or naming it.  If the learner hesitates in responding, the therapist prompts him/her as many times as needed for the learner to understand what is required.  The therapist monitors how often the learner needs prompting and how often he/she responds unaided in order to determine when to decrease prompting.

If the learner makes an error during the process of learning something new, the therapist does not make negative comments, nor provide reinforcement or reward.  In these cases, the therapist withholds reinforcement and presents the instruction again providing an immediate full prompt of the correct answer or presents a new instruction.

As the learner performs the targeted skill independently, the therapist reduces prompting. Once the learner has mastered the skill, it is revisited periodically for maintenance purposes and the process begins again with a new skill.



10.24.2012  Little Star Center, 317.249.2242

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