DISCRETE TRIAL TRAINING 2017-05-18T17:05:22+00:00


Discrete trial training (DTT) is a particular ABA teaching strategy which enables the learner to acquire complex skills and behaviors by first mastering the subcomponents of the targeted skill. For example, if one wishes to teach a child to request a a desired interaction, as in “I want to play,” one might first teach subcomponents of this skill, such as the individual sounds comprising each word of the request, or labeling enjoyable leisure activities as “play.” By utilizing teaching techniques based on the principles of behavior analysis, the learner is gradually able to complete all subcomponent skills independently. Once the individual components are acquired, they are linked together to enable mastery of the targeted complex and functional skill. This methodology is highly effective in teaching basic communication, play, motor, and daily living skills.

Initially, ABA programs for children with Autism utilized only (DTT), and the curriculum focused on teaching basic skills as noted above. However, ABA programs, such as the program implemented at CARD, continue to evolve, placing greater emphasis on the generalization and spontaneity of skills learned. As patients progress and develop more complex social skills, the strict DTT approach gives way to treatments including other components.

Specifically, there are a number of weaknesses with DTT including the fact the DTT is primarily teacher initiated, that typically the reinforcers used to increase appropriate behavior are unrelated to the target response, and that rote responding can often occur. Moreover, deficits in areas such “emotional understanding,” “perspective taking” and other Executive Functions such as problem solving skills must also be addressed and the DTT approach is not the most efficient means to do so.
Although the DTT methodology is an integral part of ABA-based programs, other teaching strategies based on the principles of behavior analysis such as Natural Environment Training (NET) may be used to address these more complex skills. NET specifically addresses the above mentioned weaknesses of DTT in that all skills are taught in a more natural environment in a more “playful manner.” Moreover, the reinforcers used to increase appropriate responding are always directly related to the task (e.g., a child is taught to say the word for a preferred item such as a “car” and as a reinforcer is given access to the car contingent on making the correct response). NET is just one example of the different teaching strategies used in a comprehensive ABA-based program. Other approaches that are not typically included in strict DTT include errorless teaching procedures and Fluency-Based Instruction.

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