Going Down (not up) the Prompting Ladder

Paraprofessionals provide critical support to students in inclusive classrooms. And one of the most important skills to learn is how to provide support that is “just right”. Meaning, support that is not too invasive and doesn’t cause dependence on adults, AND allows the student to have full access to, participation in, and progress towards the general education curriculum.

What we have for you is a tip for providing “just right” support.

It’s called The Prompting Ladder and it is designed to help you learn specific ways to increase a student’s independence and interdependence as you prompt them throughout the day…your guide for prompting during academic, routine, and even social interactions. 

Independence is great and so is interdependence!




The Prompting Ladder

(Adapted from Causton & MacLeod’s The Paraprofessional’s Handbook 2nd edition)

A prompt is anything that increases the likelihood of a student demonstrating the desired or expected behavior. For example, a common prompting strategy is modeling. Modeling is when someone shows or demonstrates a concept, idea, or task. Another prompting strategy is the use of verbal prompts. This strategy is where someone says or signs something that provides a cue to the student, helps them organize their thoughts, redirects their attention, and at times, even tells them what to do or how to do it.

Prompts can range from indirect, less intrusive, or what some refer to as naturalistic, to direct or more intrusive. When creating a balance between independence and interdependence, we start with the least intrusive prompts and only move toward more intrusive prompts when needed.

We use the analogy of a ladder to help teams get on the same page when it comes to selecting and using prompts.




How to use the prompting ladder: Imagine you are very afraid of heights when looking at the prompting ladder.

The key here is to start at the bottom rung (the least intrusive supports) move up only as far as necessary (toward more intrusive supports), and return back down as quickly as possible.

Next…check out our handy handout for three examples of how to use the Prompting Ladder across ages, grades, and situations.





Use our Prompting Ladder as a visual support for YOU while learning and delivering “just right” supports. Then be sure to fade it away as YOU become more independent in delivering “just right” supports. 

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Need more PD Like this in your school?

Rarely is there time for paraprofessionals to receive the training and support they need to work with children and students on IEPs.

Even more rare is professional development with practical strategies that can be applied to all of the students in the district…from Pre-K through 12th grade.

Now is the time to invest in an entire workforce…a workforce who holds the key to successful inclusion of all children and students.