Academic Interventions

Academic Interventions-Priming Page |1
Academic Interventions
Priming helps prepare children for an upcoming activity or event with which they may have
Does your child experience:
Difficulty adapting to new learning situations?
Difficulty with transitions?
Avoidance behaviors when presented with materials or tasks?
Difficulty interacting with adults and peers?
Priming is an intervention that helps prepare children for an upcoming activity or event with
which they normally have difficulty. Priming can occur at home or in the classroom and is most
effective if it is built into the child’s routine.
Priming sessions are short and concise, and typically involve using the actual materials that will
be used in the lesson. It is not meant to teach the material. Instead, priming familiarizes the child
with the material so he/she is comfortable with it and therefore more ready to learn.
Priming is an effective strategy for increasing success with a variety of tasks such as
comprehending new material, interacting with others and reducing behavioral problems due to
anxiety caused by environmental changes.
Priming is not meant to teach, only to familiarize!
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What Is Priming?
Priming is an intervention that previews information or activities with which a child or youth is
likely to have difficulties. It is an effective tool for increasing success on a variety of tasks and
Priming ...
Serves as a preview activity conducted prior to instruction using the same material that
will be used in an upcoming lesson.
Can occur the day before the activity, the morning of or right before the activity.
Can be performed by anyone who works with the child at home or at school (parents,
teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers).
Consists of short and concise sessions that take place in a relaxed atmosphere.
Familiarizes the child with material; does not "teach" it.
Provides high levels of reinforcement for any attempt.
Example: Bryan
Bryan has difficulty paying attention during circle time in preschool. He often disrupts other
children, particularly when the teacher is reading the daily story. During a parent conference,
Bryan’s teacher and mother decided to use priming at home to help reduce his off-task behavior
in circle time.
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Bryan’s teacher gave his mother the book they were going to read the next day in circle time.
Bryan’s mother read the book to Bryan as part of his bedtime ritual that evening. She asked him
general questions along the way, but did not interrupt the story. Bryan’s mother praised him
when he sat and listened to the story. Through this process, Bryan became familiar with the
pictures and the text in a comfortable setting.
Because Bryan had heard the story the night before and knew what to expect, he was able to
focus on the book during circle time the following day. By being familiar with the book, Bryan
attended to the story without disrupting the teacher or his peers.
Purposes of Priming
To familiarize the child with the material before its use
To increase competence before problems develop
To introduce predictability into the information or activity, thereby reducing frustration
and anxiety
To allow presentation in a nonthreatening and exploratory manner
To increase the child’s success
Rationale Behind Priming
This intervention can be used with children and youth with autism spectrum disorders who:
engage in avoidance behaviors when materials or tasks are presented.
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require extensive exploration time before they can participate appropriately with a
require help with social initiations.
have trouble transitioning in their environment. Click HERE to see video example.
Example: Jill
Jill is a five-year old child with autism, who is a kindergarten student in a general education
classroom. Jill’s teacher has difficulty getting her to focus during one-on-one activities. Jill
consistently moves away from the teacher when asked to participate. When the teacher tries to
redirect her back to the activity, Jill screams and throws herself on the floor. For an upcoming
activity consisting of matching colored blocks, Jill’s teacher decided to try priming to eliminate
Jill’s avoidance behaviors by familiarizing her with the materials.
In preparation, the teacher met with Jill’s paraprofessional and gave her the blocks Jill would be
using. She instructed the paraprofessional to familiarize Jill with the blocks but not to "teach" the
concept of matching. Since Jill enjoys going to the "quiet room," this is where they decided the
priming session would take place. The quiet room is a small room that children with special
needs can go to when they need a less distracting environment to complete assignments. The
paraprofessional remained relaxed and patient and continuously encouraged Jill as she stacked
the blocks. Jill’s paraprofessional told Jill that she was going to learn to match the blocks in class
the next day. The session was short and informal. Whenever Jill attempted to interact with the
blocks, she was rewarded.
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The next day during work time in the classroom, the teacher introduced the blocks that Jill had
played with the day before to teach the concept of matching colors. Because Jill was familiar
with the blocks, she was interested in what the teacher was doing with them. As a result, her
avoidance behaviors were reduced, which enabled her to actively participate in the learning
Steps in Priming
Step One: Collaborate
The first step in priming is to determine who is going to prime and what activities are going to be
involved. This can occur at an IEP meeting or a parent-teacher conference. A classroom teacher,
resource room teacher, a parent or a paraprofessional may prime a student. It is important that
everyone involved cooperate to make the priming intervention successful.
Step Two: Communicate
Once the teacher, support staff, and parents have decided who will prime, it is important that the
teacher and the family communicate openly about what will be upcoming and covered in class.
To do so, they must develop a system that allows for communication between the teacher and
primer. The system should address the following:
1. Who will prepare the priming materials?
2. Where and when can the primer access the priming materials?
3. How will the primer notify the teacher that the priming has occurred?
4. How will it be determined that priming is an effective strategy?
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5. How will the problems be addressed?
6. Is a scheduled meeting time needed to overview how priming is proceeding?
7. How will this communication take place?
weekly calendar
(Wilde, Koegel, & Koegel, 1992)
Step Three: Prime
After communication and collaboration strategies have been developed and implemented, the
actual priming session can take place. There are five basic guidelines to follow when priming.
Guidelines for Priming
1. Develop a Routine
Choose a specific time and place to hold the priming sessions, such as at the dinner table
after dinner or in a special place at school.
2. Introduce the Material
Familiarize the student with the new material or academic procedure. This is not a time to
teach new concepts. The material will be discussed again during the classroom lesson, so
it is not necessary for the student to completely understand the new concept in the
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priming session. Briefly tell the child that she will have a lesson using the materials and
explain the purpose of the lesson.
3. Be Patient and Encouraging
Priming sessions are more successful when the primer is patient and relaxed and the child
is allowed to explore the new material. Additionally, it is essential to keep the sessions
short. Encourage the student to understand that the priming sessions are included to help
her get ready to learn about new ideas.
4. Give Rewards
Always reward the student for all attempts to participate in the session. The priming
session is meant to be a positive experience, so reinforce for appropriate participation as
well as approximations of expected behavior.
5. Provide Choices
Students can be active participants in priming and should be provided the opportunity to
participate in many of the decisions related to priming. If possible, allow the student to
assist in deciding where the priming session will be held, what reinforcement will be
used, and what material will be covered in the session.
Step Four: Provide Feedback
Communication between the teacher and the primer continues after the priming session. After
each session, the primer should notify the teacher of the results of the activity. A priming form
can be helpful in recording important information about the priming session and the classroom
lesson. The classroom teacher can initially fill out the date and assignment. After the priming
session, the primer completes the next two sections, primed - yes or no, and child’s behavior, and
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returns the form to the classroom teacher. Finally, the classroom teacher can indicate on the form
the student's behavior during the lesson and provide comments as needed. The attached form can
be passed from teacher to primer back to teacher daily.
Priming should not be a strictly enforced activity. If a priming session takes place under stressful
circumstances, the student may experience stress and anxiety, which defeats the purpose. It is
better not to prime at all than to prime in a stressful and rushed environment. If a priming session
is not held, valuable information can still be gained. For example, this is a good time to note if
the absence of the priming session made any impact on the student’s behavior in the actual
situation. During the instruction of the unprimed activity, it is important to determine if problem
behaviors increased, decreased or remained unchanged. Making this determination will help
guide the implementation of future priming sessions.
Sample Activities
Exploring the material
Reading the story
Showing the visual schedule
Practicing with art supplies
Talking about and showing finished product
Playing the game
Watching a segment of the videotape or looking at the video jacket
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Challenges around priming are often easily addressed when the primer is flexible. Some of the
most common priming problems and possible solutions follow.
Student can’t sit still during priming session
Start with a shorter time session.
Student doesn’t want to participate
Offer a small, highly motivating reward upon satisfactory completion of the priming session (i.e.,
sweet snack, a special pencil, a video).
Other children are around
Include them or plan around them.
Priming material did not make it home
Check communication with parents and alter the method of transportation (opportunity to teach
child organizational skills).
Cannot prime the night before
Priming can occur in the morning or right before the activity is to take place.
Child is not taking on the desired role the next day in class
Make sure the child is being primed in a way that is similar to what will occur the next day in
(Wilde, Koegel, & Koegel, 1992)
A c a d e m i c I n t e r v e n t i o n s - P r i m i n g P a g e | 10
1. Priming is an intervention strategy that previews information or activities that a child
may find difficult.
2. Priming sessions should be _______ and _______.
A. short, concise
B. lengthy, successful
C. unpleasant, predictable
D. short, stressful
3. The purpose of priming is to _______ the child with the material in order to facilitate
subsequent classroom performance.
A. stimulate
B. teach
C. reinforce
D. familiarize
4. Priming is most effective when it is built in as a part of the student’s routine.
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5. Priming consists of four steps:
A. gestures, imitation, communication, priming
B. collaboration, priming, reinforcement, feedback
C. collaboration, communication, priming, feedback
D. collaboration, communication, priming, reinforcement
6. Priming should be used to teach new concepts.
7. Priming should occur in a _______ environment.
A. pleasant
B. relaxed
C. predictable
D. all of the above
8. During priming, students should only be rewarded for correct responses.
9. _______ is the step in priming that provides information on the effectiveness of the
priming sessions.
A. Collaboration
B. Reinforcement
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C. Communication
D. Feedback
Bainbridge, N., & Myles, B. S. (1999). The use of priming to introduce toilet training to a
child with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disorders, 14(2), 106-109.
Kamps, D. M., Leonard, B. R., Vernon, S., Dugan, E. P., & Delquadri, J. C. (1992).
Teaching social skills to students with autism to increase peer interactions in an integrated
first grade classroom. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 281-288.
Schreibman, L., Whalen, C., & Stahmer, A. (2000). The use of video priming to reduce
disruptive transition behavior in children with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior
Interventions, 2(1), 3-11.
Taylor, B. A., Kevin, L., & Jasper, S. (1999). Increasing play-related statements in children
with autism toward their siblings: effects of video modeling. Journal of
Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 11(3), 253-264.
Wilde, L. D., Koegel, L. K., & Koegel, R. L. (1992). Increasing success in school through
priming: A training manual. Santa Barbara: University of California.
Zanolli, K., Daggett, J., & Adams, R. (1996). Teaching preschool age autistic children to
make spontaneous initiations to peers using priming. Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders, 26(4), 407-422.