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A Break Down of Priming in ABA

Autism priming exampleThink about the last time you or someone you know purchased a new car. Suddenly, every time you sat behind the wheel, you began to notice all the other people driving the same car. It’s unlikely there was an actual influx of purchases for the same car, but it is likely you were more prepared to notice the car. That is, you were primed to see that make, model, and color, making it more noticeable than other cars on the road.

In Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), priming improves a child’s success in transferring from one event to the next.

What is Priming?

Priming is a preventative strategy, also known as an antecedent strategy, used to prepare children for a situation or task by providing them with relevant information beforehand.

Why Use Priming?

Although knowing what car you drive is good to know, there are many other purposes in priming. Specifically in ABA, priming is used for:

• Transitions
• Preparing for new events
• Setting expectations

Everyone wants control of their lives and, for children with ASD, transitions may be especially difficult and cause emotional distress. Ultimately, we hope to reduce anxiety and drastic behaviors through preparing children for novel situations.

What Does Priming Look Like?

Priming comes in many forms. Some forms of priming include:

• Visual schedules
• Social stories
• Videos
• Verbal reminders

Note that each form of priming can serve a different purpose. Visual schedules may be for daily use, while social stories and videos may used for specific tasks; however, each method of priming can be fluid in its use.

Like many of the tools used in ABA therapy, priming can be used for everyone. The world around us influences us in ways we can’t possibly account for on a regular basis. Especially now, anxieties are running high, and many families are working with completely different schedules. We hope that during this time, we can provide comfort and stability by giving parents tools to help their children with the changes that have already occurred and those to come.

— This post was authored by Lexys Sillin, RBT

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