I’ve heard about ‘discrete trial training’ (DTT) and ‘natural environment training’ (NET)? What is the difference, and how do I know which is right for my child?

State of the art ABA programs, such as the one provided at FirstSteps, are now comprised of a variety of empirically validated teaching tools, with discrete trial training (DTT) and natural environment training (NET) being two different teaching techniques. DTT refers to a style in which learning trials are presented in rapid succession in a highly structured manner. Some have described DTT as ‘unnatural’ or ‘rote,’ but as research has demonstrated, it affords many benefits. Specifically, it allows Instructors to present over 100 learning opportunities per hour.  The more learning opportunities presented, the faster new skills are acquired. DTT also allows us to set up clear expectations for your child, and can be used across a variety of skills, to include teaching language, play, social skills, and self-help activities. Conversely, natural environment training is just that – ‘natural.’ NET is less structured than DTT, and involves presenting programming targets within more natural contexts, such as during play or typical daily activities.  As such, it allows us to focus on generalization of skills.  Whether to use DTT or NET depends on your individual child's needs, learning style, rate of skill acquisition, and ability to generalize skills from one setting to another.  Typically, our children receive a mixture of DTT and NET, however, your child’s Program Director will assess with which technique your child has the most success and make recommendations accordingly.

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