Errorless Learning: ABA Skills Explained

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Monday, August 27, 2018

The Scott Center

Part 6:  Errorless Learning

Errorless learning, as you may guess, is a way of teaching that prevents a child from making mistakes as he or she is learning a new skill.

Errorless learning is highly effective for children who are prone to making mistakes, and allows them to contact reinforcement more readily than “trial and error” methods of teaching. Allowing a child to error may result in problem behaviors such as tantrums or aggression, and the frustration and disappointment that accompanies making errors often results in slower learning.

Most skills can be taught using errorless learning techniques, but it does take some skill on the part of the parent to implement. Here are some tips to help you be successful using errorless learning strategies.

First, set clear expectations with your child and provide instructions or models of the task being completed. This will make it easier for the child to understand what they are being asked to do.

Second, provide ample prompts immediately after the instruction is given, to assure they don’t make mistakes, and continue providing support as the task is completed. This may involve anticipating during what parts of the task they will have trouble with, which takes some skill, and providing more assistance during these steps. As they practice more, start fading the amount of help you provide, but only if you are fairly certain they will complete the steps correctly.

Finally, provide reinforcement for task completion, but the amount of reinforcement should vary based upon how much of the task they completed on their own. For example, you would provide moderate amounts of reinforcement if they needed full prompts throughout the task, but as they practice and become more fluent in the skill, provide more access to preferred items and activities. So, what should you do if your child makes an error? Errors will happen. Simply withhold reinforcement without saying anything, re-present the instruction, and immediately provide a full physical prompt to complete the task.

You can provide a neutral verbal acknowledgement of task completion, like “That’s how you brush your hair.” Then provide the instruction again. If they complete the task as you expected before they made the error, provide a moderate amount of reinforcement and continue teaching.

You want to try to prevent errors, so make sure you are observing closely as your child performs the skill you are teaching. Errorless learning is a great tool for parents to use when teaching new skills to their children.

More information in this video:  https://www.thescottcenter.org/advisor/tool-kits/aba-basics-foundation-skills?page=5

Part 7 will cover prompting.