SLP & OT Spotlight: Promoting Independence: When It’s Time to Fade the Prompts

Promoting Independence

At New Horizons School, staff are committed to providing students with the “just right” supports that enable students to participate and accomplish their tasks while encouraging them to grow their independence. Expectations of independence differ based on student needs over time. Sometimes, students become accustomed to a level of support or prompting that is no longer required due to their success and growth. We call this Prompt Dependency. While prompts can be helpful in providing guidance, over-reliance on them can hinder a child’s ability to develop independence, problem-solve and self-regulation. This reliance can stem from various factors, including difficulties with executive functioning skills such as task initiation, organization, and self-regulation. 

Today, let’s explore strategies to transition children from being prompt-dependent to independent at home. Did you know that new executive functioning skills can take a minimum of 6 weeks of structured practice to become engrained?  Remember that new skills require time to learn and prompts should be faded gradually. Below are some examples of how to encourage independent executive functioning at home in a supportive way.

Organizing Toys or Games:

Initial Support: Assist your child in sorting toys or games into categories (e.g., puzzles, action figures, board games). Provide guidance on where items should be stored by providing visuals or explaining the “sorting rule” used to organize the spaces.  Help them create a system for organization.

  • Fade Prompts Gradually: As your child becomes more accustomed to the organization process, gradually reduce your involvement. Offer prompts or reminders to check the visuals or sorting rules as they work, but encourage them to make decisions and problem-solve on their own. Eventually, step back completely and allow them to organize their toys or games independently.

Creating a Weekly Schedule:

Initial Support: Sit down with your child and discuss the activities and commitments for the week ahead. Help them create a visual schedule or calendar, including school, extracurricular activities, and any other responsibilities.

  • Fade Prompts Gradually: As your child becomes more comfortable with scheduling, gradually reduce your involvement. Encourage them to update the schedule on their own and make adjustments as needed. Offer prompts or reminders as they work, but allow them to take the lead in managing their weekly schedule independently.

Homework Time Management:

Initial Support: Begin by establishing a designated homework time and space for your child. Sit down with them to review their assignments and create a plan for completing them. Help them prioritize tasks based on deadlines and difficulty level. Set a timer to segment the homework session into manageable chunks, with breaks in between.

Fade Prompts Gradually: As your child becomes more comfortable with managing their homework time, gradually reduce your involvement. Encourage them to take the lead in planning their homework sessions and setting their own timers. Offer prompts or reminders as needed, but allow them to make decisions and problem-solve independently. Eventually, allow your child to manage their homework time from start to finish with minimal assistance, if possible.

Planning a Family Outing:

Initial Support: Brainstorm ideas for a family outing together, discussing potential activities and locations. Help your child create a plan, including transportation, timing, and any necessary supplies.

  • Fade Prompts Gradually: As your child gains confidence in planning outings, gradually step back and let them take the lead. Offer prompts or suggestions as needed, but encourage them to make decisions and problem-solve independently. Eventually, allow your child to plan the entire outing from start to finish with minimal assistance.

Why is Independence Important?

Developing independence is crucial for children as they navigate through school and beyond. Here’s why:

  • Academic Success: Independent learners are better equipped to manage their time, organize tasks, and complete assignments efficiently. This sets the stage for academic success and fosters a sense of confidence and competence in their abilities.
  • Social and Emotional Development: Independence promotes self-confidence, resilience, and self-esteem. Children who feel capable and empowered are more likely to engage socially, advocate for themselves, and navigate peer interactions with confidence.
  • Life Skills: Beyond the classroom, independence is essential for success in various aspects of life, including employment, relationships, and daily living tasks. By fostering independence early on, parents can help prepare their children for the demands of adulthood.

To sum it all up, transitioning children from prompt dependency to independence is a gradual process that requires patience, support, and consistency. By implementing strategies to promote independence at home, parents can empower their children to develop essential executive functioning skills and thrive in school and beyond.

Warm regards,

Erin Germsheid, BSc.OT

Miranda Lane, MSc.SLP, MBA, R.SLP, SLP(C)

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