Welcome back! We hope Part 1 of our guide was helpful and answered some of your basic questions around what ABA therapy is and why it’s important to start children early.
In this article (Part 2), we’re going to talk a little more about ABA therapy techniques. We mentioned them briefly in Part 1, but wanted to give you a better idea of two techniques in particular that are widely used by ABA therapy providers – Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET).
Both DTT and NET are methods of teaching children with autism through ABA therapy. In a practical sense, these methods are what you would see if you were to watch an ABA therapy session with a child. Along with data collection and analysis, they are the nuts and bolts of ABA therapy.
We use both techniques here at The Behavior Exchange because they provide greater flexibility for teaching behaviors and skills that align with the different needs of children as well as with the different ways they learn.
Let’s look at DTT first, then NET.
The Basics of Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
- DTT is all about making a new skill or behavior easier to learn. Discrete Trail Training has been around since the 1970s and is based on the idea that children with autism can learn a behavior or skill if it’s broken down into smaller, “discrete” or separate steps. The skill or behavior becomes easier to learn that way.
- “Trial” refers to giving children lots of chances to try and master the smaller steps. DTT is a time-intensive and structured technique used most often in One-on-One Therapy, where one therapist works exclusively with one child. Repetition is key, because children with autism learn best when they can repeat a new skill or behavior over and over.
- During DTT, ABA therapists prompt and reward children. If a child is learning their colors, for example, a therapist may ask the child to point to red. If the child doesn’t, the therapist will point to red or prompt them in some other way, then ask the child again to point to red. This back and forth continues, with the therapist reducing the prompts and rewarding the child with each near miss, until the child independently points to red when asked. By rewarding behavior, the idea is that it will happen more frequently.
- DTT can help children in many areas of development. Children can learn simple to complex skills and behaviors through Discrete Trial Training, including speech and language skills, self-help skills, fine motor skills (for example, writing or using a spoon), and more.
The Basics of Natural Environment Training (NET)
- NET is a method of teaching children in the context of their natural environment. Natural Environment Training is less structured than DTT. Although it may look like play, NET is a methodical and organized approach to creating opportunities for learning in natural settings. An important goal of all ABA therapy is to help children generalize skills, so they can apply them to different real-life situations beyond therapy. With NET, generalization of skills is built into the equation.
- It uses whatever motivates and engages a child and incorporates targeted skills. NET encourages children to learn new skills and behaviors in a context that’s meaningful to them, like playing with a particular toy or participating in an activity they enjoy. As a result, it heightens their engagement and motivation to learn. With more motivation and engagement, fewer prompts are needed to learn.
- NET reinforces communication and social growth. Interacting in natural settings, like when a child is at play, enables children to initiate conversations and navigate social cues more effectively and naturally without any external pressure. They’re actively learning, but to them, it’s just having fun.
We incorporate fun into everything we do at The Behavior Exchange! If you’d like to learn more and get started on a brighter future for your child and family, contact us today. We’re proud to be a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence® with the highest accreditation possible and in-network with all major insurance providers.
In the meantime, watch this space for Part 3 next week. We’ll tell you more about our process, from assessing your child to helping them become more independent. Talk to you then!