Incidental teaching is a strategy that uses the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to provide structured learning opportunities in the natural environment by using the child’s interests and natural motivation. Incidental teaching is used when trying to enhance language and behavior skills. Incidental teaching is typically used with children aged 2-9 years, but it’s suitable for people of any age who are autistic or have developmental delays. Incidental teaching helps children find their inner voice.
Steps to Incidental Teaching
- Follow the child’s lead: To make the most of this method, it is important for the adult to understand the child, their natural behavior, and their interests. Use the toy they are interested in to teach colors instead of taking the toy away and using flashcards of color instead.
- Attention: Make sure you have the child’s attention otherwise you will not likely get a response from the child and your efforts will be for not. It is important to get down to eye level and be face to face this way the child will know that something is expected.
- Create the Right Environment: Use props, materials, and activities that will prompt the child to initiate conversation. Make sure that these materials and activities are of interest to the child. Then place the items out of reach. This will create an opportunity where the child will have to communicate verbally or nonverbally to request the item that they are desiring. When the object is out of reach then this forces the child to ask the adult for help to get the object they are wanting like a toy or a book.
- Time Delay: Let the child be the one to initiate the request. Interactions are started by the child, not by the adult.
- Model Correct Response: If the child does not initiate, the adult will then help by modeling the correct response by saying the word of the of object the child wants like “Book?”. Another method is to provide the child with nonverbal cues such as pointing to an object to help the child initiate a move. This method tends to be the most effective for children with autism.
- Offer Positive Reinforcement: When the child responds correctly, reward them with access to the object or activity that is being requested. Hand them the book that they want.
Benefits of Incidental Teaching
Putting the responsibility on the child, allows them to develop their inner voice and not be a bystander. The adult is guiding the child to take their first step in learning. Once the child feels comfortable with their language skills then this will allow them to start interacting more with their peers. This will encourage them to adapt and communicate their needs in various settings which will help them implement their newly gained knowledge and skills.