Last week, I talked a little bit about what incidental teaching is and the steps you can take to implement this technique. This week let's talk about all the Do's and Don'ts of this strategy. This is a list of my own tips that I have found to work well.
The "Do's and Don'ts" of Incidental Teaching:
- Keep it as natural an interaction as possible. Ex. "Oh, I see you looking at Mr. Potato Head. He is soooo fun!!!!" Wait for child to request and if no response " Do you want Mr. Potato Head?" Wait for response. No response "Tell me, 'Head'." Child responds and you give praise "Oh I heard your voice! Here's Mr. Potato Head."
- DON'T OVER DUE IT! One of the biggest mistakes we as therapists make is over use of a particular technique or strategy. I typically would only use this technique when child wants to begin a new activity. I would not hold ALL objects/materials out of reach and have child request EACH piece. That seems to me to be a bit of overkill and really doesn't represent real life. A child only has to request at home the things that are out of reach. Many of his/her toys are within reach, so we want to teach this skill of initiating requests yet maintaining it's natural interaction.
- Keep functional use in mind at all times. Remember this skill of requesting items out of reach is one that, if used correctly, translates to the home environment for requesting things such as snacks, drinks, toys out of reach/sight, etc. Generalization can be seen when you train parents to use the same technique at home.
- FOLLOW THE CHILD'S LEAD. Do not pre-plan that you will be playing with various activities/toys for certain time spans, but follow your student's lead. Allow him/her to choose the activity from your pre-chosen options. Give your students' the permission to terminate each activity upon their own choosing. Do not force more play time if the interest in the activity is no longer there as learning will not occur. Rather, allow your student to clean up (with your help), then choose the next activity.
- Make incidental teaching a routine. If you are using this technique, be sure to use it for each therapy session so your students get used to this routine. Very soon, you will have your students initiating requests without prompts if you dedicate yourself to routine use of this technique.
- Alternate materials to which the child has access. To keep motivation high, be sure to alternate the toys and other materials you allow your students to have access. Be sure to have a mix of familiar and unfamiliar/novel materials available.
- When working with a group of students, be sure to teach your students to "take turns" choosing an activity. This way you can use the technique, while also teaching very important social skills such as turn taking, waiting, etc.
These is a quick and easy list of tips that can be helpful when implementing this technique. Always remember to have fun and keep it simple.