Errorless learning means that we don’t let our kids make mistakes. We fully prompt them to prevent them from making the mistake or we physically change the situation to block the behavior or mistake from happening.
I'm not telling you to do everything for your child and give them trophies all the time for being so wonderful. I'm trying to give you a strategy to use in specific situations where problem behavior exists in your world and you really want it to stop.
From the Texas Guide for Effective Teaching (2013): “Errorless learning offers the following benefits: (1) Minimizes the number of errors; (2) Increases overall time available for instruction; (3) Reduces the likelihood that errors will be repeated in the future; (4) Reduces frustration and the occurrence of inappropriate emotional behaviors by increasing opportunities for reinforcement.”
That’s a lot of ABA mumbo jumbo. Let me try to explain it better with some pretend conversations. (I spend 90% of my time with a Little. I have a lot of conversations with the air, myself, the dog, the wall, you name it. I clearly need more grown up interaction in my life. Who’s in the same boat? Oh yeah, you can’t answer. There I go again…)
You: I want my Little to stop doing _______!!
Me: Well, can you prevent it or block it from happening?
You: My kid is licking her lips so much that her face is chapped.
Me: Put something in her mouth so that tongue can’t even reach the chin to cause it to chap. Something appropriate- like a lollipop, a Vitamin C drop, etc.
You: My kid grabs stuff off the shelves at the grocery store. I can’t take him anywhere! When am I supposed to shop?
Me: Occupy his hands so that he can’t grab stuff. Get a special object that is just for in the shopping cart- tie something special to the handles maybe. If his hands are occupied, he won’t throw boxes of mac and cheese haphazardly and cause eye injuries. That’s what mom’s always say, right? You’ll poke someone’s eye out?
You: My kid keeps ripping everything off the pantry shelves, making a mess and breaking things!
Me: Lock the pantry door. Get a baby safety lock thingie and shut it down.
If you have a situation where you can block or prevent an error or behavior problem from occurring- do IT! You aren’t over-prompting if you back off over time. You aren’t diminishing their independence.
Give them reinforcement for desired behaviors and correct answers. Give them options for other things they can do- guide their independence into things that will get them access to reinforcement and they will be independent, OUT of trouble, and happy!
Spend time focusing on the good behaviors by preventing the not so awesome ones from even happening in the first place!
Research is COOL!
Green, G. (1996). Behavioral intervention for autism. In C. Maurice, G. Green, & S. C. Luce(Eds.), Behavioral interventions for young children with autism (pp. 29-42). Austin, TX:Pro-Ed.
Terrace, H. S. (1963). Discrimination learning with and without “error.” Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 6, 1-27.
Need some more behavior strategies for moms? Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity is available now!
Leanne Page, MEd, BCBA