Incidental teaching is a form of teaching in which a teacher takes advantage of naturally occurring 'incidents' or situations to provide learning opportunities for the student.
Incidental teaching is based on the idea that students, including children on the autism spectrum, are more willing to learn if the teaching is based around their own interests and preferences.
In incidental teaching the teacher organises the learning environment around a set of pre-planned learning objectives but taking into account the student's individual preferences. When the student demonstrates an interest in an item or activity, the teacher encourages that interest by questioning or prompting the student. For example, the teacher may place something that the student wants just out of reach, so that the student has to communicate with the teacher in order to get it.
Incidental teaching can be used as a focussed (standalone) technique but it is also a key element in many comprehensive, multi-component programmes, such as the Early Start Denver Model, LEAP and the UCLA YAP model. It is also the main technique used in programmes run by the Walden Early Childhood Center at Emory University in Georgia, Atlanta.