Teaching Receptive Labels

Your family is doing home renovations during a pandemic and you hear your partner calling out to you, “give me the Phillips head screwdriver.” Do you know which one that is? What about a Robertson, or a Torx? This can be a common source of confusion for some DIYers – but we have good news for you: receptive labels can help!

What Is It?

The receptive label allows the learner to identify what an item, object, or activity is. When a speaker names an item, and the listener is able to identify it, we see receptive labels at work. As in the above example, when your partner calls for the Phillips head screwdriver, and you retrieve it from the toolbox out of a (seemingly) endless array of screwdrivers, you have demonstrated your receptive understanding of what that label is.

If, however, you hand over an incorrect screwdriver, you demonstrate that you cannot identify the item by its name (or label).

How Do We Teach Receptive Labels?

First, make sure your learner has mastered the skill of matching! Be sure to check our blog posts regularly as we will have a future post outlining the What, and How, of Matching!

Start with items that are motivating for your learner – it is great to pair this program with learners who are manding for many items (check out our blog on the echoic-to-mand transfer here). Research tells us that manding leads to receptive identification – if a student can ask for a preferred item, they should be able to identify that item. Check out our video on how to choose receptive targets here.

Put out 1 target item, and an array of 3 (1 matching the target, and 2 distractor items). As the instructor you will provide an SD along the lines of “show me/find the/match [target item]”.

A distractor item is an item that is different than the target item. Make these functional items that do not sound the same – we want to teach our learners, not trick or confuse them.

Table is set up with materials [visual for apple] [visual for shoe] [visual for ball]
Instructor: holding item [apple], SD “find the apple”, hands apple to learner
Learner: puts item apple on visual apple

Score interval as correct

What If…?

If an array of 3 items (1 target and 2 distractor items) is too complex for your learner, you can start with an array of 2 items (1 target and 1 distractor item).

Table is set up with materials [visual for apple] [visual for ball]
Instructor: holding item [apple], SD “find the apple”, hands apple to learner
Learner: puts item apple on visual apple

Score interval as correct

But Wait!

Your learner is still having difficulty with an array of 2 items?! No problem!

Use the target item, and a BLANK visual.

Table is set up with materials [visual for apple] [blank visual]
Instructor: holding item [apple], SD “find the apple”, hands apple to learner
Learner: puts item apple on visual apple

Score interval as correct

How Do We Use A Transfer Trial?

Going back to our array of 3 (1 target and 2 distractor items): what happens if your learner selects an incorrect response? Re-ask the question and prompt the correct response.

Table is set up with materials [visual for apple] [visual for shoe] [visual for ball]
Instructor: holding item [apple], SD “find the apple”, hands apple to learner
Learner: puts item apple on visual shoe
Instructor points to correct visual: “this is apple”

Instructor: holding item [apple], SD “find the apple”, hands apple to learner
Instructor physically prompts learner to place item apple on visual apple
Score the entire response as incorrect

Remember, we do not take data on the transfer trial; score the original response as incorrect. Do not re-arrange the array until after the transfer trial is complete.

The transfer trial gives the learner additional practice!
See how we use the transfer trial and error correction procedure here.

What About Prompting?

Prompting can take different forms while teaching receptive labels (check out our post on The Prompt Hierarchy here). It can be a physical prompt (full or partial), or it can be a gesture (a point) to the correct response.

See how we run the Receptive Labels Teaching Program here.

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