Types of Prompts

Type of Prompt

Description of Prompt Type

Verbal Prompt

A verbal prompt  is any verbal assistance given that helps toddlers use target skills correctly such as spoken words, signs, or statements. A verbal prompt includes hints, a clue, or a direction and range in intensity level from least to most restrictive. For example, providing a direction is more restrictive than providing a hint about how to identify the object.

Gestural Prompt

A gestural prompt gives toddlers with ASD information about the cue to use a behavior or skill through the use of gestures. Gestural prompts may include pointing or touching an object (e.g. pointing to the car on the “road”).

Physical Prompt

physical prompt includes physically guiding or touching the toddler to help him/her use the target behavior or skill (e.g. tapping a toddler’s hand which is already on the toy car to cue him to push the car). Physical prompts are used when the toddler does not respond to less restrictive prompts (e.g., modeling, verbal, visual). Physical prompting is useful when teaching motor behaviors (Alberto & Troutman, 1999).

Controlling Prompt

The controlling prompt is the prompt that results in the toddler performing the skill correctly.  It is the last prompt in a least to most prompt hierarchy. The controlling prompt can be any of the other types of prompts described above and is individualized for the toddler and skill. For graduated guidance, the controlling prompt is typically a physical prompt. 

Model Prompt

A model prompt includes either performing the target skill for the toddler or showing the toddler what to do (e.g., pushing the car on the “road”). When using model prompts, adults demonstrate or model, the target skill. Modeling may be used to prompt discrete or chained skills (Alberto & Troutman, 1999).

A model prompt is a component of modeling, another evidence-based practice. A description of model prompts is included here. For more information, please refer to the fact sheet on Modeling.

Visual Prompt

A visual prompt includes pictures, photographs, or objects that provide the toddler with information about how to use the target skill or behavior (e.g., a washcloth or a picture of a washcloth as the cue to pick up the washcloth to wash face).

Visual prompts are often incorporated into activities to help toddlers with ASD acquire target skills. For example, adults may show the toddler a photo or drawing with an example of a correctly completed Duplo structure. Visual prompts can be used to teach a wide variety of skills, including play activities and daily routines. When using visual prompts, it is important to identify supports that are developmentally and age appropriate for individual toddlers with ASD. For example, adults would not want to use pictures if the toddler does not yet have the ability to understand that a picture or drawing represents a real object.

A visual prompt is a component of visual supports, another evidence-based practice. A description of visual prompts is included here. For more information, please refer to fact sheet on Visual Supports.

A Note About Prompt Dependence


If prompts are not used in a systematic manner (i.e. using a clear target stimulus, waiting for a response from the toddler before prompting, using them when they are not needed or not effectively fading the use of the prompts), toddlers can become prompt dependent. In other words, the toddler does not respond until the adult gives the prompt.

Learning to use a prompting procedure as intended should reduce the chance that toddlers become dependent on receiving a prompt before using the target skill or behavior.