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Error Correction Procedures

Working with a child who has special needs requires an understanding of how to address their unique behaviors and responses to your corrections. An error correction procedure is how you respond to correct your child's incorrect response. For example, you would use a picture displaying an appropriate response to show your child how they should have responded or acted.

If your child has autism, you have already learned that positive reinforcement is crucial when they use appropriate behaviors. To increase their good behaviors, positive reinforcement is one of your most important tools to use. The question remains, however, how to respond when your child answers or their response is incorrect?

How to Use Error Correction Properly

When you use error correction properly while working with a child with autism, it is as important as giving them lots of positive reinforcement when they respond correctly. When there is an incorrect response, you want to remove reinforcement such as telling them, 'Yes, you did great trying', as this gives a confusing message.

Another factor to keep in mind when using error correction procedures is your tone of voice. Children with autism are specially tuned to noticing a voice change and may interpret a gruff, or negative change in your voice as antagonistic. Your child most likely struggles with complex receptive language skills, so you want to maintain an even voice with error correction and keep it simple.

Good responses with error correction are simple, 'no' or 'that's not right,' and move on to demonstrate the skill correctly. If they have responded incorrectly, and you've had to use error correction, you should now help them get it right. Represent the same question or teaching cue, and immediately give them a prompt to give the correct response. Once they've given the correct response, use your positive reinforcement.

The steps for error correction are:

  • Demonstrate or model a correct response

  • Cue or prompt a correct response

  • Insert a distraction to avoid a response chain

  • Repeat your original instruction

If possible, while teaching a new skill, try to interrupt or block an incorrect response. Depending on the skill, you are teaching this technique is not always possible. In some situations, such as teaching block shapes or colors, you can interrupt if you see they are reaching for the wrong one. You want to prevent mistakes whenever possible.

Assessing Correct Response with Prompt

If you've had to prompt your child to get the correct response, you will want to assess or double-check that they can respond correctly without a prompt. You might want to throw in a distractor first, such as asking for a different response before repeating the one you prompted. Use an unrelated task, for example, if you are working on colors and had to prompt for a correct response, change the task to identifying a body part before returning to the colors.

Using Positive Reinforcement with Error Correction Procedures

Taking away positive reinforcement might be tricky when you are using error correction procedures. When you perform the distractor trials, prompting trials, or assessments, you want to keep the reinforcements to a minimum. Save the fun and amazing reinforcements for when they give the correct responses. You don't want to teach a child with autism that they still get a reward when you help them give a correct response.

Where to Learn More About Error Correction Procedures

ABA Pathways is committed to helping you and your family build a brighter future. We offer optimal treatment programs that will meet your child's and your family's needs. Our holistic, comprehensive programs will foster appropriate social behaviors and communication skills for your special needs child. You can talk to one of our experts on how to use error correction procedures or about any of the unique opportunities we have available to help your child grow.

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