Intensive Behavioural Intervention Therapy and Errorless Learning

Errorless teaching is a great way to improve a child's confidence. I would recommend the training in teacher's college and that it be used by supply EAs and EAs in one-on-one placements.

By Debra Hughes
Published March 02, 2015

In my article last week on the Educational Assistant shortage in public schools, I mentioned Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy as a valuable tool for teachers working with students with special needs.

I took IBI (Intensive Behavioural Intervention) Technician Training in 2010. It was two hours a week for eight weeks, and it taught me invaluable lessons in the ABCs of behaviour: Antecedent, Behaviour, and Consequence.

I learned data collection and how to deliver an instruction. I learned how to teach my daughter, Katie, in a positive environment. I learned errorless teaching.

Before teaching, however, it is necessary to arrange the learning environment and establish the child's readiness to learn.

Learning Environment

The learning environment is one of two situations: a natural environment where the skill will be used and materials will be ready and waiting; or a contrived environment with few or no distractions where the child will learn.

The latter is a simplified environment. When the child is ready to learn, they will be sitting still, focused, and not engaging in other activities. It will help the child get ready by turning off the TV, calling their name, touching them on their shoulder, or letting them finish what they're doing and then getting their attention.

Delivering short, simple, clear instructions will ensure a specific response from the child. "Get your shoes," for instance, is much clearer than, "We have to go now, so get your shoes on." Repeating instructions will enable the child to refuse the first time, so only deliver the instruction once, when the child is paying attention.

The Antecedent of giving an instruction leads up to the instruction. Behaviour follows the instruction, and Consequence happens after the behaviour. Consequences include positive or negative reinforcement.

Errorless Learning

Errorless learning is the procedure of prompting a child to respond correctly before they make an error or don't reply. Making learning fun is part of the goal.

A child who is having fun while learning has a better memory of it, and a teacher who reinforces the positive will enjoy teaching more, rather than correcting errors.

Prompting comes in different forms. Some children respond to full physical prompting, or hand-over-hand. Others find partial physical, gestural, visual, positional or verbal prompts more effective.

Partial physical prompting includes hand over hand, but only partway through. Full physical guides hands through the entire process. Gestural is where the instructor gestures by pointing, nodding at or otherwise indicating the correct object.

Visual prompts stand out. It could be a brighter coloured card than the others or a bigger card than the rest.

Positional prompting includes placing the correct choice closer than the others to the child, making it obvious that it is the right one. Verbal prompts are words.

Fading Prompts

Fading prompts as soon as possible is recommended so the child does not become prompt dependent. There are a few ways to fade prompts.

Fading over time is where the correct response is delayed a few seconds until the child themselves gets the correct answer. Fading physical prompts can go from full physical to partial physical to gestural.

Positional fading is where the position is less noticeable. Verbal fading is speaking more softly or only saying part of a word. Gestural could be a more vague rather than specific indication in the general direction.


Always reinforce an instruction a child follows successfully, prompted or unprompted. They will have good feelings about it and will want to continue the behaviour.

Reinforcing is either the addition of something desirable, or the removal of something negative. Either feels good. How a person reinforces is up to them, but it usually works best if the child highly desires it. Preferred items can change over time.

Errorless teaching is a great way to improve a child's confidence. I would recommend the training in teacher's college and that it be used by supply EAs and EAs in one-on-one placements.

Teachers in specialized roles like Resource Teachers or Special Needs classes could also find this program useful.

Debra Hughes is a special needs stay-at-home mom with a home-based business called Little Treasures by Debbie for knit and crochet items. She enjoys writing editorials on occasion.


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