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ABA Drawing Imitation with Ozobot

Photo of a Ozobot mini-robot moving across a black line drawin with marker.

What's in this post:

  • What is Drawing Imitation?

  • Teaching Steps

  • Ozobots!

  • Natural Reinforcers

What is Drawing Imitation? The goal of "drawing imitation" is to teach a child to copy a written mark made by another person. While it often starts very simply (such as copying a single line), the idea is for the child to eventually learn to copy more complex writing. This is particularly helpful when learning to write letters/numbers, drawing shapes, etc.

Teaching Steps One way to teach this skill could be as follows:

  1. The teacher says, "Do this" (a general instruction that lets the child know to imitate your action).

  2. The teacher draws a line on the paper.

  3. Give the marker or crayon to the child (a thick, black marker is what you'll want for the Ozobots).

  4. If the child does not make the line (or draws an "incorrect line" - horizontal vs. vertical, for example), physically prompt by physically guiding the child's hand to draw the correct line. The goal is for the child to watch what you're drawing and make the same line, but it's okay of some prompting is needed at first.

  5. Praise/reinforce the child.

  6. Keep practicing, and fade prompts quickly. To learn more about prompts and how to fade them (which is critical), consult with a BCBA® and see the blog posts on prompting from The Autism Helper (liked below).

  7. Start with drawing simple lines (horizontal, vertical, diagonal), and gradually work up to more complex shapes.

Ozobots! Ozobots are a fun tool for teaching drawing imitation. These little robots have a color sensor built-in, so if you draw a black line on paper, the robot will move itself along the line. To use them for drawing imitation, you'll do the drawing imitation steps. After the child draws a line or shape, you can put the robot on the line (or let the child do it). The robot will "drive" itself along the lines you and your students make. My students enjoy this, and watching the robot serves as a fun reward for drawing the line. As a note, you'll need to draw the black line fairly thick for the robot to be able to sense it.

After your child/student has learned this, you can also draw different colors of squares to have the robot do different things. I believe the instructions for this are included in the Ozobot kit.

Click the photo above to learn more about Ozobots on My students love them!

Natural Reinforcers

One benefit of using Ozobots is that they serve as a "natural reinforcer" for the activity (In ABA terms, reinforcer = reward). In a very basic definition, a natural reinforcer is a reward that is inherently related to the task. It's something that would follow as a natural consequence of the activity. Here's an example to illustrate the idea:

Natural Reinforcer: A child is working on a puzzle of farm animals. The teacher holds all the pieces. The child says the name of an animal, and the teacher gives the child that animal to put in the puzzle. This is assuming that the child enjoys puzzles and that this is a fun/motivating activity for him or her.

"Arbitrary" Reinforcer: A child names the correct farm animal pictured on a flash card and is given a small candy or a few minutes to play with a toy car as a reward.

I use arbitrary reinforcers sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, I think it's also important to use natural reinforcers whenever possible because they help show the child a direct link between what they're learning and fun/useful outcomes. This gives the child a context for why the skills you're teaching them are useful in the real world. It makes learning more relevant and meaningful for the child, and helps with generalization of skills taught to "real-world" situations. For more information about natural reinforcers, I highly recommend this wonderful book:

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