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Effective Shadowing

In the idea of Integrated Education, students with special educational needs (SEN) often experience challenges in mainstream school settings. They may face difficulties in following class routines, learning skills in class, and interacting with teachers and peers. And often, these skills cannot be self-learned in a short period of time, but required external coaching and training. Shadow teacher is to help students with SEN to set and achieve individualized goals and help them integrate into mainstream schools.

However, some parents and teachers refuse to have shadow teachers at school as they worry that the presence of a shadow teacher might hinders the independence of students. This actually may happen, but not because of the nature of a shadow teacher, but the limited skills and knowledge of the individual teacher. So, I would like to let parents know more about the steps and criteria in implementing effective shadowing.



1.Shadow Teachers

Firstly, a suitable shadow teacher has to be chosen. He/she must be familiar with your child’s needs. If not, he/she needs to spend some time to work with your child first before starting services. The shadow teacher should know your child’s skills level, including skills of social, learning how to learn, communication, etc., so they can make quick adjustments to manage situations when your child has challenging behaviours or learning difficulties at school.

2.School Meetings

Communication and collaboration between the shadow teacher, classroom teacher, social worker and the parents are the keys to meet the needs of the child.

Also, all parties must know more about the child’s interests, strengths, weaknesses and behavioural challenges and well understand each party’s concerns. Sufficient communications assist in setting goals for the child at school.

3.Clear Goals

Clear short term and long term goals are needed. These should be set according to your child’s needs, abilities, and the expectation of the parents.

Short term goals should be achieved from 1 weeks to 1 month, while long term goals should be completed in few months or in a year.

Having clear goals are essential for shadow teachers to help your child in integrating at school. Short term goals help in checking and tracing the learning process of students in different areas, and guiding the students to achieve the long term goals.

A clear plan also ensures the consistency of teachers’ and parents’ expectation of the child’s performance. Both parties can support each other, helping students to adapt better at school.

4. Observation

  1. Observe and identify the learning areas that the child needs to catch up with (e.g. social skills, learning how to learn skills, following classroom rules, transition, etc.)
  2. Find out the causes and provide solutions when behaviour problems occur.
  3. Develop student’s reinforcements at school.

5.Design Programs

After observation and analysis of your child’s behaviour, shadow teacher needs to design a program plan (reactive plan) when your child’s behaviour problems occur. It is important to stop the undesirable behaviour and let your child knows the consequence. If no proper action is taken, the occurrence of those undesirable behaviours will continue or even increase.

In addition, shadow teacher needs to have another plan (proactive plan) to encourage your child’s appropriate behaviour for the situation. Self-evaluation, tokens, and self-monitoring are tools and strategies to teach a child to engage in appropriate behaviour.



6. Outside Service Support

1 on 1 ABA therapy provides specific learning goals to train your child in learning appropriate behaviour effectively. Then, the shadow teacher can help him/her to generalize those skills to school.

7.Fade Out the Service of Shadow Teachers

Fading out the service is needed for your child so he/she can independently demonstrate the skills learnt and generalize those skills with different teachers.

  1. First, the shadow teacher needs to demonstrate how to execute the plan in the class.
  2. Shadow teacher needs to assist classroom teachers in understanding and executing the system smoothly.
  3. When classroom teachers can use the system independently, shadow teachers can gradually distance themselves from the student. Shadow teacher can gradually fade out the help by moving further away from the student until completely out of classroom.

8.Evaluating the Performance

  1. When performing the fading stage, shadow teacher needs to consistently evaluate student’s performance with teachers.
  2. Adjust the plan according to the student’s performance.
  3. Understand the difficulties teachers faced when implementing the plan and amend the plan accordingly.
  4. While performing observation, shadow teacher should pay attention to student’s performance, and provide findings during the regular meetings.
  5. After shadowing service has been ended, shadow teacher should conduct regular meeting with school teacher. During the meeting, teachers discuss student’s current performance and progress with parents and the shadow teacher. The shadow teacher can give comment to keep up with the ongoing performance.

Info provided by Samantha Mak, Senior Behavioral Therapist
Autism Partnership Samantha Mak
Ms Samantha Mak obtained her Degree and Honor Degree in University of Southern Queensland, major in psychology. She has joined AP since 2010 as a behavioral therapist(one-on-one and Jumpstarts program) and a shadow teacher in the mainstream school. Moreover, she has over 5 years of experiences in working in social group and providing parent training. Aside designing and planning learning phases and activities for students, she is also experience in providing training to junior staffs in AP and interns from university under supervision. She receives direct training with Dr. Angel Au, Clinical Psychologist.


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