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Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Discrete trial training, or DTT, is one if not the most common form of teaching children with Autism. It is often confused for ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, but discrete trial training incorporates principles of ABA for success. There are several different aspects of DTT that allow for success for children with Autism. This is just a brief overview of the concepts.

Reinforcement-Reinforcement is a key component for Discrete Trial Training. The key concept of reinforcement is reinforcement causes us to increase appropriate behaviors and decrease inappropriate behaviors. By reinforcing correct responses, the child will present the correct answer to the presented task more frequently to obtain the reinforcement.

Small parts-DTT breaks skills down into small steps for learning. One example is colors. Instead of teaching all colors at once, the child will learn one color at a time. In addition, the child will learn to find the color before learning to label it.

Another example of this is chaining. Some skills like tooth brushing require all the steps to be done at the same time, but the child only focuses on learning one skill at a time. Staff will provide hand over hand prompting for all the steps and the child then completes the last step on their own. Once they learn this the child then begins to do the second to last step on their own. This is done until all steps are learned in order.

Anything that the child needs to learn can be taught with discrete trial training. Some skills are easily broken down, while other skills take a bit of thought to break down.

Repetition-DTT uses repetition of skills for learning. You run multiple trials of the same skills each session until the child has learned the skill. For example-colors-you run 10 trials of learning to identify red on day 1. The next day you again run 10 trials. On third day you run 10 trials again and they have learned to identify red. On day 4 you beginning running 10 trials to identify orange until that is learned.

Stimulus-The stimulus, or the SD, is one of the most important parts of discrete trial training. This teaches the child what exactly they need to do. When teaching receptive skills the SD is generally-touch __, point to __, find __. For expressive skills the SD is usually the question you are asking with limited words. For example, when asking the color of an object we usually say “What color is the ___”. When training a child with Autism you want to use few words so it would just be “What color”. As the child is learning you want to use the same SD until they learn the skill. You then want to work on generalizing to other SD.

Baseline-Baseline tests what a child already knows so you don’t teach it again. For baseline you present the SD and wait for a response. You do not prompt them if they are wrong and don’t reinforce them if they are correct. You run a series of 5 or 10 trials. You do not prompt or reinforce because you want to see if they truly know the content and did not just have a lucky guess or learn quickly from your prompt.

Generalization-Generalization is the act of being able to display the skills in other situations. Children with Autism often learn to respond with one trainer, in one environment, or with one set of materials. It can also be any combination of these. It is important that once the child becomes familiar with the skill you change up the materials, do it in another room, and have someone else run the program. If your child does not learn to generalize skills then there will be little use to the programs they have learned.

Prompting-Prompting is another key component to learning through discrete trials. Prompts are ways of helping the child respond correctly and then fading off until they are responding on their own without help. There are 2 hierarchies of prompting-least to most and most to least. The hierarchy you use depends on your preferences. With young children it is best to use most to least so they learn the correct way the first time as most of the material is new. Below is a table on prompting. Some people and agencies use other prompts, but these are the most common. The codes in the parenthesis are used so you don’t write out the prompt. These are not the official prompt codes and codes can vary. Use what works best for you.

Receptive Expressive
Errorless Training (ET) Your child does not have the opportunity to get it wrong. You present the SD and immediately prompt the correct response. Errorless Training (ET) Your child does not have the opportunity to get it wrong. You present the SD and immediately prompt the correct response.
Full Physical (FP) You hand over hand the correct response. Verbal Prompt (VP) You verbally state the correct response. They need to echo it to get it correct.
Partial Physical (PP) You prompt the correct response by gently guiding from the elbow, but the child puts in some of the effort for the correct response. Partial Verbal (PV) You give part of the correct response and the child states the full correct response. For a response of red you may make the rr sound.
Gestural (G) You point to the correct response and the child correctly responds. Visual (VIS) You show the child a visual to cue the response. This doesn’t work for all children, but some children learn to recognize the cue-it may be a written word or symbol.
Positional (P) You move the correct response closer to the child. Independent (I) The child responds without any prompting.
Independent (I) The child responds without any prompting.    

August 17, 2011 This post was written by Categories: Learning Information No comments yet


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