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Peel Away Prompt Dependency To Build Independence

Our students have a lot of needs and very often have come to us with some level of prompt dependency. It is imperative that we be thoughtful about how to peel away those supports while building independence and functional skills.

Our students have a lot of needs and very often have come to us with some level of prompt dependency. It is imperative that we be thoughtful about how to peel away those supports while building independence and functional skills.


Many times, our students need supports added in to their instruction and routines in order to accomplish tasks and learn new skills. I am in no way saying that we shouldn't do that. We need to build the scaffolding system needed to help our students learn and develop functional skills and routines. BUT... it is also our responsibility to SLOWLY peel back those supports to build true independence in our students.

Step 1: Choose prompts that you are able to fade. Verbal prompts are the hardest to fade, so I try to make that one of my last choices. Instead, I use visual or physical prompts if appropriate. Click the photo below if you want more info on using visuals to reduce prompt dependency.



Step 2: Even before you add the prompt, have a plan on how to fade it. If you can't think of a way to fade this prompt out, then try to find a different way to support the student.

Step 3: Implement the prompt that you feel the student needs AND have a plan to fade.

Step 4: As the student shows readiness, begin to fade the prompt. Sometimes this step is in a week and sometimes this step is in 3 months... the goal should always be to only give the smallest amount of support needed.

Always be thinking... When this student leaves my classroom, will he be able to preform this skill when I'm not there or when the environment isn't as rigid? If your answer is no... have a plan to get your student ready for that next step. Think about the barriers and attack them systematically.

Want more info on fading prompts? Click the picture below to read Fading Prompts For Independence.



Our students have a lot of needs and very often have come to us with some level of prompt dependency. It is imperative that we be thoughtful about how to peel away those supports while building independence and functional skills.


Teaching Students With Disabilities About Safety

Safety awareness can be a very abstract concept for our students... yet it is such an important one! We need to find ways to break the concept down into more understandable chunks and build the language needed for emergencies. Here are some ideas for breaking it down and build those crucial life skills.

Teaching students about safety awareness and rules is crucial in students with disabilities. They need a high level of repetition in order to increase the likelihood they will use them independently. Here are some ideas to get your started.

Personal Information

Students need to be able to tell strangers their personal information.... this is a tricky one! On one hand, we tell children no to talk to strangers. BUT then we need them to be able to tell trusted strangers when problems and emergencies arise. We practice this one in a variety of ways.

Start by practicing a system for students to share their personal info with known people. How are students going to get this info to others? Is there speech clear enough for strangers to understand them? Will they talk loud enough or slow enough for a stranger to understand what they are saying? Will they have a device or PECS book with them? If you answered no to any of these, then it is time to teach students a specific way to convey this info to strangers when needed.

It could be that they always have a card with personal info in their pocket. They could have a medic alert bracelet they learn to show strangers when asked about their name. Whatever the system, it is important that we practice it over and over and over with students in our safe & known environment.

I like to practice having students give it to "strangers" in the school building. There is always a few adults in the building (custodian, teachers from different grades, school secretary, etc.) that the student doesn't know yet. This is also a great chance for you to see if this person who doesn't know your student can understand the info.

When you practice this, have the "strangers" ask for their info in a variety of ways. We know how to state questions in a way that will get them to respond... others do not. You need to plan and teach this!!

Safety Rules


We also work on general safety rules. We use role playing and interactive books to practice different safety rules that apply to most settings. For example, there is a part of our campus where we can practice crossing the road safely. Find ways to mock them up and practice them over and over!

We also use these interactive safety books as another way to hear the rules and review them.


No matter how you practice safety rules and build safety awareness, it is important to practice it over and over. Keep it up!!

Teaching students about safety awareness and rules is crucial in students with disabilities. They need a high level of repetition in order to increase the likelihood they will use them independently. Here are some ideas to get your started.


Teaching The Concept Of Addition With Graphic Organizers

If students simply memorize addition facts without truly learning the concept of addition (how/why that is the answer), then it could negatively effect future life skills. For example, in order to add money, figuring out if they have enough money to purchase an item, setting the table, planning for a grocery shopping trip, etc. you need to have a deep understanding of how addition works.  So... it is super important that students have a strong understanding of the concept of addition. Here is a great way to get students started on that path.

Help students to build a strong understanding of the concept of addition by using graphic organizers and visuals. This will help students develop the foundation they need to learn future life skills.


When introducing addition to my kiddos, I always start with manipulatives and a graphic organizer. This is the graphic organizer that we start with. I have never had a student it hasn't worked with!! We have multiple versions of it, but I start with the organizer on plexiglass. If you are able to, I highly recommend making one with plexiglass. I have been using this one for over 20 years... they last forever!

Help students to build a strong understanding of the concept of addition by using graphic organizers and visuals. This will help students develop the foundation they need to learn future life skills.


I like to start with the plexiglass because you can put the numbers right under the hands. Once we make the sets in each hand, we scoop up the manipulatives with both hands to "mix" them together. Then, we drop all of them into the box. We talk about how we took two different groups and added them together. This is a great time to also explain other ways to say add... mix, combine, join, etc. This will help them later on when you do word problems.


From here, we move on to a solid hands mat with the equation on a card or worksheet....

Help students to build a strong understanding of the concept of addition by using graphic organizers and visuals. This will help students develop the foundation they need to learn future life skills.

From here we move on to a small hands mat at the top of a worksheet...

Help students to build a strong understanding of the concept of addition by using graphic organizers and visuals. This will help students develop the foundation they need to learn future life skills.


When students are ready, we move on to additional addition strategies. We use the visuals and hands on tasks in the addition unit to help students move towards mastery and use a variety of strategies to add.

We introduce and teach strategies one by one using anchor charts:



We use hands on tasks to practice and review. I add these to our math centers and task boxes. Here is a peak at some of the hands on tasks from our addition unit:



Since my kiddos respond so well to graphic organizers and visual supports, we continue it with our addition strategies worksheets.




If these instructional strategies have been helpful to your students, you can keep that support for higher level addition skills.




Help students to build a strong understanding of the concept of addition by using graphic organizers and visuals. This will help students develop the foundation they need to learn future life skills.



Teaching Students How To Use Deep Breathing Effectively

Have you ever had a kiddo who looked like "deep breathing" was making him more anxious? Like he might hyperventilate  from trying to so hard to take deep breaths? Yeah... not so calming!! I have a great solution for you!!

Have you ever had a kiddo who looked like "deep breathing" was making him more anxious? Like he might hyperventilate  from trying to so hard to take deep breaths? Yeah... not so calming!! I have a great solution for you!!


Cupcake breathing! You have probably heard of using the visual to sniff a flower as a way to get students to take calming breaths. While that works for some students, it hasn't been very successful for my moderate to severely disabled students. My amazing social worker came up with an adapted method and gave me permission to share it with you. Yay!

Our kiddos have a lot of experiences with cupcakes (and most are positive experiences) which already helps them feel positive about practicing and using this breathing strategy. We first ask them to pick the flavor of their cupcake (chocolate, vanilla, etc.). Then, we slowly smell the cupcake.... AKA slowly take a deep breath!

Then we breath out while saying, "Ahhhh" because it is so yummy! 😀 We do talk about how we need to be careful when we breath in and out because we don't want to ruin our cupcake. Breath too heavy and you could ruin the frosting and no one wants that!!

Have you ever had a kiddo who looked like "deep breathing" was making him more anxious? Like he might hyperventilate  from trying to so hard to take deep breaths? Yeah... not so calming!! I have a great solution for you!!

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