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Imagine! Voices provides a forum for folks in the Imagine! community to share what is going on in their lives and reflect on their experiences. Imagine!
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Tavio's Hat Collection

August 18, 2017 - 9:00am
Featured this week is Tavio, a resident at an Imagine! Group Home, and Chelsea, Residential Counselor at the Group Home. The two of them tell a fun story about Tavio’s lifelong collection of hats.

Tavio and I took some time to look through and reminisce about all his hats this morning while waiting for his ride to program. He started by telling me that his niece gave him the hat that he is wearing now, a brown, floppy, cowboy/sun hat. It is one of 60+ hats.

"I put different hats on every morning" he says as he pulls out all of his hats from the large box, one at a time. Sometimes Tavio wears multiple hats throughout the day. "Yeah, on Saturday and Sunday," is when he wears up to 5 or 6 hats (not all at the same time), changing them out at random times whenever he feels like he wants a new one on his head.

Tavio pulled out a hat with the character "Goofy" on it. "I got this one at Disney Land." He pulled out some peculiar hats, too. One of them was a police hat he wore for Halloween last year, and another one was a plastic green Irish bucket hat he got from Food Share. He wears these even when it's not a holiday. Sometimes he just feels like looking like a police officer. Sometimes he strolls around the house wearing a Santa Claus hat, and last week he wore it out in the community. Christmas in August!

I asked him which hats were his favorite. He responded with "all of them are my favorites. My sister got me this one, my Superman hat." Tavio remembers most of the people who gave him hats, even people who he has not seen in a very long time. "Oh yeah, that guy that worked with me a long time ago. I think his name was Keith, I don't know. He don't work there anymore. He gave me this one," a green fisherman hat. He has multiple Imagine! hats, too.

What Tavio loves about hats the most is that they keep his head warm. Tavio wants people to know that it "feels good to have all these hats."

Alonzo Impacts 5th Grade Class

August 11, 2017 - 9:00am
Alonzo Clemons accepts services from Imagine! and lives in Boulder, CO. He has received a great deal of media exposure over the years, spot lighting his diagnosis of Savant Syndrome and achievements with clay sculpting. 60 minutes, Geraldo, Discovery Channel … just to name a few, are outlets that have recognized Alonzo’s talents and compassion for art and life.

Along with this worldwide attention and exposure, Alonzo remains active in his community and offers sculpting presentations to local schools. Last year, Alonzo visited a 5th grade class at Lyons Elementary. Prior to Alonzo’s visit, this class studied human rights and social injustices throughout history. They read novels with characters who had disabilities and also focused on African American history, gaining an understanding for discrimination all this while.

Alonzo was their last speaker to wrap up the human rights curriculum. While giving the class a live demonstration of clay sculpting, his assistant shared stories from Alonzo’s experience and answered questions. During the presentation, Alonzo mentioned that one of his goals was to have a lot of customers in his sculpting business.

The 5th graders were left inspired and empowered. They had group discussions to debrief the human rights curriculum and after much thought, one group decided to dedicate their final project to raising enough money to be one of Alonzo’s customers. The students prepared and shared a presentation with the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) as first steps for fundraising and reached out to the community for support. After many months of planning and organizing with community, family, and PTO assistance, the 5th graders raised enough money and commissioned a 14-inch long sculpture of a mountain lion for the school.

 After this project and experience, one of the students wrote, “I learned to never judge someone on how they look or any apparent disability you think you see. We all have amazing strengths and talents to contribute to our world.”

We are fortunate to have Alonzo in our community and that he uses his experience and talents to be an education to the youth. I asked Alonzo if he has any advice for young artists, he responded, “Do not look at the picture you want to make, start with your own mind.”

To learn more about Alonzo and to purchase his art, go to

This sculpture was custom made by Alonzo for the Lyons Elementary School. 

Imagine! Case Management Unsung Hero: Kristen Kernan

August 7, 2017 - 8:30am
Imagine!’s Case Management department works with many great people. To show their appreciation, each month they choose an “Unsung Hero” within the department. Case Managers, support staff, and Case Management supervisors all put in nominations describing what the person has contributed to the department to go above and beyond while supporting those we serve.

For August, we would like to recognize Kristen Kernan as this month’s Case Management Unsung Hero.

Kristen is the definition of “going above and beyond.” She recently uncovered a situation in which an individual served by Imagine! and her daughter were residing in unlivable conditions. This particular case is one of the most extreme we have ever seen and Kristen jumped in without hesitation. She has worked tirelessly to address the situation, recruiting support from other organizations, and getting the family into a hotel. She organized junk movers, disposal of biohazards, mold remediation, and more, spending hours on site at the house to coordinate efforts and make sure things went smoothly. She even bought the family dinner out of her own pocket when they had no food, then arranged to get them grocery cards. Because of Kristen’s efforts, this family will eventually be able to move back into their home under the DD Waiver and start receiving the services they need to stay safe in their own home. Kristen’s work on this case exemplifies Imagine!’s values of respect, communication, creativity, and community.


August 4, 2017 - 11:00am
Robert accepts services from Imagine! and lives at one of the Imagine! group homes in Boulder. He and I hung out on the back patio one Sunday afternoon and reminisced about music and life. 
You can catch Robert hanging on the back porch, keeping an eye on his garden. “I water every day and basically at night because we’ve been getting a heat wave. I started the garden in early June.”
When I arrived we talked music, gardening, and life. We turned on some tunes and sang along to Pink Floyd and John Denver. “My favorite Floyd song is ‘Wish You Were Here.’ I wanted to play the drums as a kid. People asked me why and it’s because that’s the first thing you hear when the band starts playing.” When Robert plays music at program or at the house, “I just let other people play the instruments and I’m the singer.”
“If I had a million dollars, I would buy my own place in the mountains. It would have a gym with weights and a treadmill, and Jacuzzi on the back patio. I would throw parties.”
“I have a thing about cigarettes, put your butts in the ash tray or trash can. I don't mind if you smoke, just put them away. I remember when I had to go out to the street and pick up one cigarette butt after the other. I will be frank, if you're going to smoke, try to pick up your butts, or don't smoke at all."
“Enjoy the best you can out of life. You only have one life to live, so why not get the most out of it. And if there's something you can't do, then go onto something you can do, rather than making a big fuss about it. If you can't do anything, don't be afraid to ask, cause there's always gonna be someone there to help you out. All you have to do is speak up.” 

Sarah Fenton and Kerry Robison: Recipients of the August 2017 Imagine! Excellence in Customer Service Award

August 2, 2017 - 2:46pm
Congratulations are in order for Sarah Fenton and Kerry Robison, who were selected as the August 2017 recipients of the Imagine! Excellence in Customer Service Award.

Sarah and Kerry were selected because:

At Imagine!’s Santa Fe Group Home, we have been working really hard on getting information about a resident’s mother's location and contact information for quite some time. One afternoon, Sarah Fenton visited here at Santa Fe Group Home, and together with Kerry Robinson went full P.I. and tracked the mom down. 

Kerry manned the computer and Sarah the phone, and together, over the course of a couple of hours, navigated the hoops and loops necessary to get the resident in contact with his mom. We'll be taking the resident to visit her very soon. 

This has been a very long, frustrating process, with roadblocks at every turn. Sarah and Kerry punched through the final layers and made the contact. The resident is extremely excited and thankful. 

Great work, Sarah and Kerry, and congratulations on this well-deserved honor!


July 28, 2017 - 9:00am
This week's write up features Jessica who accepts services from Imagine! We hung out at the group home one day and she wrote down all the things she enjoys in life :)

Megan Wieck: Imagine! Early Intervention Rockstar

July 24, 2017 - 9:57am
Imagine!’s Early Intervention (EI) program has a terrific team working to create a world of opportunity for all abilities. To show how much they’re appreciated, each month this team chooses a “Rockstar” within their program. Team members submit nominations describing what each nominee has contributed, going above and beyond to support those we serve.

We would like to recognize Megan Wieck as this month’s Rockstar.

Mike Spreads The Word

July 21, 2017 - 10:34am
This week's write up features Mike from Boulder, Colorado, who accepts services from Imagine! Using his communication device and assistance from his mother, Mike shares his experience being active in public policy. 
I think I need to tell everyone how important it is to be active in advocating for yourself and others. I need to tell you that this year in the Colorado Legislature I gave testimony for two very important bills. One was to prevent the use of prove restraints in the schools. I can’t believe they are still doing it. I helped prevent it now for the future and parents will have to be notified about any restraint use. I had good schools where they knew better ways to help students be safe. Both the classmates and the student who loses self control. I also gave testimony to try to keep schools from suspending and ejecting students ages three to second grade. It passed one body but lobbyists defeated it in the other chamber. In Colorado, the session each year goes from January to early May. Then it goes to recess until the next year. That gives time to focus on national bills. Right now the focus is to prevent cuts and caps to Medicaid. It’s very important that your Legislators hear your stories. Call or write them.

I have been involved in public policy since high school. I have been at the Colorado legislature every year since graduation. I know many legislators personally and I was introduced on the floor of the house. I also have been in rallies supporting issues in Colorado and on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senator Kefalas asked me to come because in its first hearing in committee the chairman told him he planned to table the bill, but since people came to testify he gave us a chance. He told senator Kefalas that my testimony convinced him to ask for a vote. It passed and went on to become a bill.

Imagine! Case Management Unsung Heroes

July 17, 2017 - 2:56pm
Imagine!’s Case Management department works with many great people. To show how much they are all appreciated, each month they choose an “Unsung Hero” within the department. Case Managers, support staff, and Case Management supervisors all put in nominations describing what the person has contributed to Case Management to go above and beyond to support those we serve.

For June, we’d like to recognize two outstanding members from our team, Jen McIntyre and Becca Webster, as this month’s Case Management Unsung Heroes.

Case Management Super Hero
Jen is the best boss I have ever had. I have had some good bosses and some crappy bosses…but Jen is definitely the best. Why, you may ask? Because Jen is sincere and goes out of her way to show you how much you mean to her team. In a work environment where turnover is a common reality, Jen makes the folks on her team feel valued. Jen never micromanages, and she trusts the competence of those who she supervises. She is there to listen to any questions and concerns her subordinates have, no matter how many questions she may get or how random those questions may be. She helps her team members grow individually and together, and every criticism comes coupled with praise. This provides a foundation on which growth can occur. Quite possibly the greatest gift Jen brings is how all these things combine to make Jen seem human and vulnerable in her role as supervisor, which empowers her team to trust her and follow her lead in a high stress and high stakes profession.

Becca Webster
As a new Case Manager, Becca has gone above and beyond the usual learning curve and duties of a new Case Manager. Becca covered a caseload of complex and difficult cases for the past three months, including the addition of her own new cases added. Becca has completed these duties with a high quality of service. At the same time Becca has dealt admirably with learning system changes of both the State Benefit Utilization system and Imagine!’s new Health Record Maintenance system. Becca has achieved results through perseverance and continual improvement.

Evan Dittig

July 13, 2017 - 12:26pm
Evan Dittig is from Jersey and founded Skate.Now, a skateboard instructional service. He visited Imagine!’s Out & About one morning to offer free skateboard lessons. I sat down with Evan after the lesson and he shared how Skate.Now got started and why.

How was the clinic with Out & About?
It went so well. I didn’t know what to expect at first being 30 kiddos and one of me. It was so well organized and I had a blast. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces were amazing. Skateboarding is a universal language. We had a couple of kids today who are non-verbal and they were able to ride just like anyone else. You just hop on and cruise. When I assisted the girl who used the stroller up and down the ramps, seeing her smile was so awesome. Some of the kids today weren’t riding it but putting their hands on the board and rolling it back and forth and still getting enjoyment out of it. You can enjoy it without riding.

What are your take home lessons during a class?
Skateboarding is not for a specific person, we’re trying to break the stereotypes of a “skater.” Anyone can go skateboarding and have a blast doing it. That’s why we like to offer the skills and guidance it takes to learn this sport to everybody, not based on any position. It builds resilience. If you fall down and get back up, and you try again, it shows you that failure is temporary. You can’t let it break your spirit because everyone falls. That’s a huge part of life, you can fail at something and it’s all about getting back up and trying again and really making it.

What’s your story and how did this business start?
I’ve been skateboarding for 12 years, teaching for 5-6 years. I used to work with local camps and skateboard shops offering lessons. I gained relationships and bonds with the kids and those turned into private lessons. I ended up with a ton of different clients so I decided to start a little business and let it grow. In my last year of college, I learned a lot about philanthropic work and giving back and I understood a greater concept of what it feels like to help those that are less fortunate. Really hit me in the heart. What’s the point of being an entrepreneur to just make money? Anybody can have money. You really just want to make an impact and better the world because this world needs it. That’s why I was in Colorado for a week and some of us went to Nicaragua last month and gave free lessons at local schools. 

 If I could support myself while giving out free skateboard lessons my entire life, I would. Our business model allows us to generate revenue and then, in turn, use that money to take trips and help out more people.

Visit the Skate.Now website to learn more about the business and follow them on Facebook to see their latest philanthropic missions!

Chad Russell: Recipient of the July 2017 Imagine! Excellence in Customer Service Award

July 6, 2017 - 2:07pm
Congratulations are in order for Chad Russell, part of our CORE/Labor Source team. Chad was selected as the July 2017 recipient of the Imagine! Excellence in Customer Service Award.

“Chad works very hard every day and mostly when no one is watching. He took it upon himself to organize the art closet and takes on art duties in the absence of the art teacher. Chad has excellent rapport with students and staff alike and treats everyone with respect.” 

“For Chad, going above and beyond is just part of the job. In an environment like CLS where things can be a little chaotic with all its moving parts, it’s the people like Chad who hold everything together. Chad’s person-centered attitude when working with students is inspiring. It’s clear that his focus is the people we serve and how we can help them grow and thrive each day.” 

Great work, Chad, and congratulations on this well-deserved honor!

Kit and Phil - This Isn't Goodbye

June 30, 2017 - 8:30am

At the end June, two longtime Imagine! employees will be retiring from our organization. In addition to being voted “Cutest Couple at Imagine!” for ten years running, Phil and Kit Peiffer leave behind a legacy of more than 37 years of service!

While it is an impossible task to truly capture their impact on Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities, we did ask a few co-workers to share their thoughts as Kit and Phil ride off into the sunset to enjoy a life of luxurious retirement. Here are just a few of them:

“Kit has been an important part of the Early Intervention (EI) Team. She is taken on lots of different duties over the years and has been hardworking and kind. EI will miss Kit and all that she brought to the department.”

“Phil was a compulsively competent Case Manager and then became my supervisor and was able to guide Case Managers to the point of becoming competent themselves.”

“I will miss my conversations with Kit about bikes and her stories of riding adventures, and the fact that she is one of the few ‘early birds’ like myself in the office. Kit helped me out a lot the last several months with a task in our department and volunteered to take this on. I’m very thankful for that help.”

“Phil had a good mix of seriousness about the important matters and humor for things that could be light-hearted.”

“Kit has been an integral part of Early Intervention. She has so much knowledge to share with the group. Her personality was a great addition to the EI team!”

“I’ve never been so sad to see a supervisor go. Phil has made my transition to Case Management as easy as it could be and it’s been a pleasure working with him the last year.”

“Kit has been such an asset to helping getting services for children. Her knowledge about insurance is awesome and so helpful. She will be missed in so many many many ways!!!!”

“Phil is easily the best supervisor I have ever had. He is approachable, supportive and light hearted. He has made Imagine! a great place to work. We will all miss him, and his candy bucket.”

Better Care Reconciliation Act Update 6/28/17

June 29, 2017 - 8:30am
While there is a great deal of uncertainty right now, it seems clear that the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) poses great risk to individuals with disabilities who use Medicaid funds for vital services and supports. We encourage all Imagine! stakeholders to do their best to keep up to date on this fast moving process, and to participate in the process as they see fit.

To do our part to keep you up to date, we’ll be sharing updates on this blog as necessary.

As of 6/28/17, here’s what we do know about the AHCA (now called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017) and the bill’s potential impacts on services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

On June 22, the Senate released its version of the American Health Care Act, now called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) of 2017, 142 pages of proposed legislation that built off the House passed version from May. On June 26, a slightly revised version was released. Check it out here.

Meanwhile, the Senate has delayed its vote on the BCRA until after the July 4th recess due to lack of support among both moderate and conservative Republican senators.

Analysis of the BCRA in its current incarnation indicates that:

The acute workforce crisis in our field is likely to worsen with the bill as written.
  • According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), the Medicaid growth rate in the AHCA/BCRA’s per capita caps proposal will continue to be lower than the expected growth rate of costs for services and supports. 
  • There is already a 45 percent national turnover rate among Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), who offer front-line supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Turnover is high because low Medicaid rates make it difficult for providers to be competitive employers, and they cannot negotiate rates. Staff members often leave for other industries with better wages. 
  • Without enough employees, providers cannot meet rapidly increasing demand for supports, leading to large in-state waiting lists and putting quality of care at risk. 
States may be hurt by the AHCA/BCRA as written and programs for individuals with disabilities may not be protected.
So how big of an issue is this?
  • 10 million people with disabilities in the U.S. rely on Medicaid for the services that help them live and work in the community, known as Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). 1.2 million people in Colorado are enrolled in Medicaid, and close to 11,000 receive comprehensive services through HCBS. 
  • Many people with disabilities are unaware that the services they receive are part of Medicaid. Services funded through Medicaid may have different names depending on the state. If a person with a disability receives any community-based support, it’s very likely through Medicaid. 
We’ll continue with the updates as we gather more information, so check back often.

Sources: ANCOR, Center for Public Representation

Farewell To The Moody Family

June 28, 2017 - 9:55am
Last week we said goodbye to the Moody family (Barbara & Rolland), who have been working as day porters at Imagine!’s office for the past several years, keeping the place clean, organized, and filled with kindness and humor. The Moodys are moving to Kansas, and as a parting gift, a group of employees pooled some money to purchase one of Barbara’s favorite paintings, which was hanging in our Coal Creek office. The painting is by a student in one of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source art classes, who is one of Barbara’s good friends, and will make a great addition to their new home. Barbara and Rolland, thanks for all you have done for Imagine! and the people we serve, and good luck. We’ll miss you!


June 26, 2017 - 12:59pm
This week’s write up features Imagine! participant Jessie, who celebrates recent progress with achieving her goals. 

Earlier this month, Jessie, passed her driver’s license exam with flying colors.

“I was really nervous. I asked her how I was doing and she told me I was doing great. Whew! That made me feel better. Before we even got out of the van after the test, she told me that I passed.”

Jessie and her friend purchased a GMC Safari Minivan – 1997, with pedal extensions already installed to meet her needs. “It’s old school.”

Jessie also recently started taking classes at Front Range Community College.

“I’m just taking the electives right now so I can get my Associates Degree. My ultimate goal is to get a degree in social work. Not sure exactly what I will do with it, but I know that I’m good at working with kids and people with disabilities, just not sure which one I want yet.”

On behalf of Imagine!, congrats Jessie for pushing yourself to achieve your goals - it's very inspiring!


June 23, 2017 - 10:45am
Betty accepts services from Imagine! and lives on her own in Boulder. (Betty and I chatted in her apartment and she gave us permission to write up her comments). 
Pictured below is Betty and her two birds, Pepper and Angel. 

I grew up in Pittsburgh and at that time, they didn’t have the type of programs for me they have here. I grew up with animals, dogs and cats, but we had to get rid of them as we moved around a lot for my father’s work.

I’m 69 years old and I have learned to push yourself and take what you can get. When I moved to Colorado over 30 years ago, my sister taught me how to take care of myself … how to use my fork, use the restroom, get dressed, and more. I have worked at a restaurant in Boulder for 26 years and had to be on my feet a lot, serving people, folding napkins, and cleaning bathrooms.

I participate in Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE). It’s a human rights group and we advocate for rights of people with disabilities. I want everybody to love each other and don’t like to see hate. Be kind and give presents to people all the time, not just at Christmas time. To those kids who want to get married, it’s none of my business, but take your time. Be patient for everything and understand people.

One of my favorite memories is a long time ago, when I was visiting my nephew at his house. His daddy told him to get on his lap so he would calm down before bedtime. He said, “no!” His mamma asked him, “Why aren’t you listening to your daddy?” And my nephew responded, “I want Aunt Betty’s lap!”

Nick O'Connor: Instructor and Musician

June 16, 2017 - 11:49am
Nick is an Imagine! employee and has worked in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities for about ten years. In addition, he is a singer/songwriter and has been playing music since he was 13. I sat down with Nick to learn more about these two passions of his: 

 1) What inspires you to write and play music?
I was kind of an awkward kid growing up. Wasn’t good at sports. Felt like I didn’t have much to give and wanted to express myself in a way. Started playing songs and playing guitar. That’s one thing I did that got me positive attention in school. Pouring my heart out in a song feels good, kinda like an anti-depressant. The performing is just as important as the song writing. I don’t think I could just write a song for other people. I like getting my message out there.

2) How did you get into this line of work, assisting individuals with developmental disabilities?
I have a passion for the line of work we’re in. We work with a population that isn’t talked about a lot and we’re still fighting for their basic rights. I have a heart for stuff like that, that’s why I’m in this field. I want to help people. 

 We were doing karaoke in a music class at CLS Longmont. One of our student’s sang “I feel like a motherless child.” She started to tear up. I told them that if you get emotional with music, there’s no shame in that. We proceeded to watch YouTube videos of songwriters talking about their songwriting process and how it goes beyond feeling happy. I think they were hip to that. To share that and get a positive response is meaningful to me.

3) What are your music goals right now? Any big projects?
In the next couple of months, I am recording an EP. My goal is to record a series of 4 EPs and release them every six months. I’ll be writing music on my own. Sometimes I bring people in to bounce off ideas. I’m going to work with Clark Hagen on these EPs. He’s a genius. Did some stuff with Chet Atkins back in the 90’s and on a record that won Grammys.

Click here to visit Nick’s website. You can listen to his original tracks and see where he is playing next.  

Free Furniture and Electronics From Former Imagine! Group Home

June 14, 2017 - 11:24am
Imagine! is clearing out its former 19th St. Group Home (1836 19th St, Boulder) in anticipation of selling the property, and will be giving away some items that we won’t be able to reuse.

For the next couple of days the items, including furniture, cabinetry, and electronics, will be in front of the property and FREE for the taking. You just need to provide the labor and the vehicle to transport the item. Some stuff it is in very good shape, other stuff perhaps not so much, but beauty (and need) is in the eye of the beholder, so if you can get there feel free to help yourself.

The items will be available until Friday afternoon (June 16). Below are pictures of just a few of the available goods.

Errorless Learning

June 12, 2017 - 1:37pm
Errorless Learning By Dr. Jeff Kupfer, PhD, Imagine! Consultant
We perform skills throughout our lives, but performing competently often requires a combination of precision or finesse, along with a minimum of errors. Both are necessary — a fancy omelet cannot include eggshells.

Performance errors often discourage learning. We may try harder when we perform slightly under par, but frequently walk away if we commit errors that results in financial loss, harm to ourselves or others, social embarrassment, and so on.

Persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities may encounter this same effect and become discouraged with learning, in general. Learning situations have an impact on all Learners. When skills are not taught well, or taught with frequent reprimands and few words of encouragement, it is not surprising that Learners who stand to benefit resist or reject teaching plans. My own observations in Planning Meetings lead me to suggest many Learners will agree to participate in teaching plans, but only if the role of the Instructor is strictly casual advisor – there in spirit only, providing neither guidance nor correction.

Errorless Learning uses instructional methods specifically designed to prevent or substantially minimize any Learner errors. This is readily accomplished by providing the maximum amount of support to the Learner in the earliest stages of learning, and then gradually reducing these supports until the skills remain intact with little or no support required (Terrace, 1963). There are three components to this method: (1) prompting, (2) fading, and (3) backward chaining.

Some steps in learning skills require prompts to complete, perhaps starting with several hints or clues provided by the Instructor until the skills are performed more accurately. We can provide these prompts to ourselves (such as Post-it Notes) to improve our self-management skills.

Once these skills are performed with accuracy and few errors, prompts can be faded until the skill is performed without any external support.

In the Figure directly below, a Learner may practice writing the letter “E” using a complete sample of that letter. Successful reproduction of the letter leads to a new sample that contains less of the previous sample and invites more letter-writing by the Learner with less prompt. This fading process can continue until the Learner writes the letter without requiring a sample.

From Sidman, 2010
If you have ever been in a school play perhaps you learned your part by studying a script, reading it directly at first, then covering up portions as you learn it well. Or maybe you learned to sing a song using the written lyrics at first, then removing them as you improved. We often use a model or sample of printed information as an example of the correct way to do something and gradually reduce its influence.

In backward chaining, a skill is taught from the end of the activity to the beginning. A bow to a shoe is pulled tight by the beginning learner and immediately encounters the benefit to a tied shoe. Once this is mastered, the Learner can begin to learn how to make the bow, naturally leading to the step of “tightening the bow” which has been mastered and can be performed independently.

Thus, all the steps in the activity are “taught backwards”. If there are 10 steps to teaching a skill, we start with the last step (Step 10) which results in the Learner coming into direct contact with the accomplishment. Then, we teach Step 9 which, when completed, naturally leads to Step 10 — a step that has been mastered and requires no prompting.

This process continues until we teach the very first step of the activity as the last step. Once Step 1 is mastered, steps 2-10 should be performed with little or no errors, and no prompting In the example below, A Learner can to write his name, first with the entire sample, then one letter at a time. The letter “E” is well-learned in step 2 so that when step 3 is introduced and completed correctly, the sample for “E” is no longer required and the name can be completed without prompting.

 From Sidman, 2010
Of course, not everything needs to be learned in this manner. When we have already learned a skill, but have not performed the skill for some time, we may need a few prompts just to get the ball rolling. That is, we only require a minimum amount of prompts. We may say: “Okay, I have it now… let’s take it from the top.” Think Frank Sinatra…

On the other hand, newly acquired skills or ones that haven’t been performed for years may benefit from a greater amount of supports. Errorless learning techniques have been used in education for decades, particularly when the skill to learn must be performed with accuracy and when there is little room for error. More recently, errorless learning has been used in rehabilitation settings and has produced improved outcomes and sparked motivation in participation. Therapy-related skills are acquired more rapidly with less frustration and with greater success and satisfaction.

Sidman, M. (2010). Errorless learning and programmed instruction: The myth of the learning curve. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 11, 167-180.

Terrace, H.S. (1963). Errorless transfer of discrimination across two continuua. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 6, 223-232.


June 9, 2017 - 3:35pm
Today's post features an Imagine! participant, Eric, who accepts Out & About services:

My name is Eric and I was born in Denver, CO. I was born with a handicap which had a great impact on me, it’s called CP for you all do not know, here is a little background on this. There are a lot of disabilities and that does not mean that you can’t do the same as those who don’t, it means that you are slow at things and you may need some help. So that’s what I got. When my mother and father had me they wanted to do everything in their power to help. I couldn’t speak that good or walk. So mother and father put me in children hospital and there they teach how to walk and work on my speech, but mostly on my walk. I did not want to some days. My dad told my mom to make sure “Eric get down here and do the exercises that the hospital told him to do.” It was a big part on him, and it work for me and I did that for about 13 years and now I am 55 and doing great. And for that I got my mother and father to thank. They really were great at that and that's how I walk and talk a little better now.

Now I did have a woman in my life when I was 13 or 14, she was good and caring about me. We went out for about two or three years. At that time I did not understand it at all, all I knew is that she love me and I love her. After school was out and if I did my homework, I could go out and see her. Each time I went to her house we go out like a park or something like that and it was a good feeling to see her each time. But we sat down one day and we hold hands and we talk and talk and she told me that she was seeing someone else and that hurt me a lot. She told me what she wanted and it made me upset for couple of weeks, seemed like. But I got over her slowly and since today we are friends but we don’t see each other anymore but I would love to see what has become of her. But who knows maybe we will. I had speech all through school and did good and people that helped me thought I was getting really good at my voice and I had work very hard on it. I made lots of friends. Got out of school with A+ and A’s. Got a good job for about 22 years and retire. I found Out & About and it has been great to me. Lots of cool people and we do things that are pretty cool. I think I had hard times but got over that, lets just say things are looking up.Thanks mom and dad, never will forget the good old times we had. Love, your son,           Eric