Learner Readiness

In this video, we will be outlining some of the skills that learners should be able to engage in prior to any formal skill training program.

By ensuring your child is able to do the behaviors outlined in this video, you are increasing how easily and effectively they will be able to learn more complicated tasks, such as self-care routines or academic skills.

The first behavior that is valuable to train before working on life skills is making eye contact and responding to name. Children with autism often struggle with this, but it is important to be able to get and hold the child's attention when giving directions. To assess the child's ability to make sufficient eye contact, sit or stand in front of the child and say their name. You can prompt this skill by holding a preferred item near your eyes, and when the child looks in the direction of the therapist, provide the preferred item and praise. During the next trial, only provide reinforcement for their eyes coming closer to contacting yours. Once they begin making eye contact consistently upon hearing their name, provide only praise and fade the reinforcer out.  As always, never provide the reinforcer if the child engages in problem behavior. Eye contact is a vital skill for learning, and by training this skill early, you can increase the effectiveness of any skill training program.

The second behavior that is essential to learn before training other skills is responding to the words, "Come here". This is assessed by first placing yourself a target distance away from the child and state the child's name, followed by "come here".  The distance for the child to move should be shorter during early training sessions and increase over trials. If the child follows the instruction, reinforcement and praise should be provided. If they do not, you can prompt the child to follow the instruction using prompts from behind, fading in and out as needed. Provide reinforcement for prompted responses, but less than if they follow the instruction independently. Keep practicing this skill until they respond independently.

The third behavior that that children should be able to engage in before learning other skills is sitting appropriately in a chair. To assess this skill, we would tell the child "Let's sit and do some work", and see if the child will sit with their back against the chair and their hands on the table or in their lap. The time for sitting will vary from child to child, and should begin with shorter durations as they are learning to sit appropriately. Early in the learning process, have them sit for a few seconds, and then provide a reinforcer. During the next trial, have them sit a little longer, and reinforce each increase in duration. Prompts may be required to have them sit at first, and reinforcement should not be provided if they engage in any problem behavior. Soon enough, your child will be able to sit and eat a snack, sit and put on their shoes, or complete academic tasks at a desk.
Keep in mind that all children are different, and may require more or less practice and prompting before mastering these skills. But by taking the time to train these learner readiness behaviors, teaching any other skills will be much simpler and quicker in the future. We hope you find this learner readiness skill tips helpful! If you would like more information on foundational skills, livings skills, and other information related to autism, please visit autism advisor dot org for helpful toolkits and resources for parents and families.