Graduated Guidance

Physical Prompting, Partial-Physical Prompting, Hand-Over-Hand Prompting

UDL 3.3 UDL 5.3

Graduated guidance is an instructional technique in which the teacher provides manual prompts to complete a sequence of actions and then fades the prompts by changing their intensity and type. Initial support consists of hand-over-hand guidance, which decreases as the student completes tasks successfully, fading to prompts at the wrist, arm, elbow, and shoulder. Graduated supports can include shadowing the student's hand without contact, verbal prompting, and gesturing or modeling from a distance. Adjust prompts as necessary until student is able to complete a task without prompting.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Planning Guide

Graduated Guidance - Planning Guide and Data Collection Sheet

A planning guide and data collection sheet for use with graduated guidance instruction. The planning guide outlines how to implement graduated guidance. The data collection sheet is used to create an implementation plan and record student progress. A sample of a completed data collection sheet is also included. This resource is helpful when supporting students who are learning to complete chained tasks such as independent work at a station, washing hands, and following morning routines.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Behavior & SEL · 3 pages

Implementation Tips

Remain consistent during escalation periods so that the student is aware of expectations, appropriate behaviors, and that reinforcers for positive behavior and actions are accessible.
Fading Prompts
Fade prompts accurately and consistently so that students do not become dependent on prompts for instruction. Graduated guidance requires constant assessment of student abilities and behaviors. Adjust prompts according to those assessments to ensure the proper amount of support and push towards independence.
Involve Team Members
Share graduated guidance processes and procedures with students' full support teams so all members can recognize it in action and utilize it when appropriate.


When teaching a student with autism to pick up a pencil and write his name, first identify the chain of actions necessary to complete this activity. Then determine a stimulus (e.g., placing a worksheet on table). Selecting a cue or task direction and a reinforcer (e.g., first-then board) are important steps to graduated guidance that will promote success. These steps do not teach the student how to do the task, but rather signal that it is time to engage in a task and provide incentive for doing so.
Intellectual Disabilities
When facilitating a shape-matching activity, the instructor must first identify the chained steps needed for success (e.g., open up file folder, lay out shape options, find matching shapes, place shape on top of matching shape). Provide the student with reinforcers and cues ahead of time, which introduce him/her to a task and give an incentive to complete it. Use full physical prompts to assist in the completion of task, and fade intensity and duration of prompting (e.g., switch from manual support to verbal directions to guiding questions) as student masters the skill at each level of prompting.
Social/Emotional Impairments
For a student who screams and shouts when she does not want to complete a task, graduated guidance can be used for reinforcing compliance when paired with cueing and reinforcers. Once the reinforcement and cueing system is established, hand-over-hand prompting can be used to begin the task for the student until she/he completes the task with less resistance. It is important to fade prompting at appropriate times and provide praise for completing activities even when prompting is provided.

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