Graduated Guidance


Graduated Guidance is a procedure designed to teach behaviors which require physical assistance. Graduated guidance has been well-studied for improving chained motor behaviors, such as self-help and leisure skills. When implementing EBIP_toilet training_13this procedure, you should use your best judgment on a moment-by-moment basis as to how much physical assistance is required by the child. As the child needs less help, you fade the prompt over time. At first, the child may need more intrusive assistance, such as full physical prompting, but later may need less physical assistance (e.g., light touch on the elbow). As the child continues to learn and become more competent, the adult should only provide assistance when the child is not performing independently, but should still shadow the learner’s movements, always ready to provide more assistance if needed. You may consider pairing verbal directions with each prompt to teach the child verbal labels related to the behavior. 


When using this procedure, it is important to pay close attention to the child’s movements and immediately provide a more intrusive physical prompt if the learner begins to make an error.

Always provide verbal praise for both prompted and unprompted behaviors performed by the child, as the task is being completed. After the task is completed, be sure to reinforce the child’s behavior. See the Preference Assessment section if you need help identifying likely reinforcers.

EBIP_prompting procedures_graduated guidance_3When should Graduated Guidance be used?

Examples of skills where you might use this procedure include:
– Hand washing
– Feeding
– Tooth brushing
– Fine motor tasks (e.g., writing, stringing beads)
– Street crossing
– Transitioning

If you are teaching a discrete behavior (e.g., touching a picture) or verbal behavior (e.g., naming letters), you should use a different prompting procedure (see Progressive Time Delay or System of Least Prompts).

Where can I find additional information regarding Graduated Guidance?

  • The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Akmanoglu, N., Yanardag, M., & Batu, E. S. (2014). Comparing video modeling and graduated guidance together and video modeling alone for teaching role playing skills to children with autism. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 49(1), 17-31.EBIP_prompting procedures_graduated guidance_1
  • Denny, M., Marchand-Martella, N., & Martella,R.C. (2000). Using parent-delivered
    graduated guidance to teach functional living skills to a child with cri du chat syndrome. Education and Treatment of Child (ETC), 23(4), 441-454.
  • Patterson, J., Rodriguez, B., & Dale, P. (2013). “Response to Dynamic Language Tasks Among Typically Developing Latino Preschool Children With Bilingual Experience.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 22(1), 103-112.
  • Wilder, D. A., Atwell, J., & Wine, B. (2006). The effects of varying levels of treatment integrity on child compliance during treatment with a three-step prompting procedure. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,39(3), 369-73.

To cite this page (APA 6th edition):

  • Morales, V.A., Ledford, J.R., & Chazin, K.T. (2016). Graduated guidance. In Evidence-based instructional practices for young children with autism and other disabilities. Retrieved from