Discrete Trial Training

Personalized Treatments for Autism - Applied Behavioral Consulting Blog

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a method of teaching in simplified and structured steps. When it comes to Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), there tends to be some confusion between these two very similar terms. Children with autism typically undergo DTT, however, people tend to confuse this program with ABA more often than not.

DTT and ABA are teaching programs and techniques used to help children with or without autism to learn new information and teach proper behavior. Think of a big umbrella in a rain storm – ABA is the umbrella and DTT is a rain drop. This means that ABA is the overarching category that encompasses a number of other teaching techniques with DTT being just one of its subcategories.

What Is the Difference Between

Let’s start by defining ABA. Overall, ABA deals with behavior as a way to bring about a significant and long-lasting change in someone’s actions. Its teaching process can be broken down into three easy steps. These steps include the (A) antecedent, (B) behavior, and (C) consequence. An antecedent is an initial signal that prompts behavior. For instance, if you are feeling sleepy (antecedent), then you take a nap (behavior) and wake up feeling recharged and rested (consequence). In this example, feeling sleepy is the antecedent, taking a nap is the behavior and feeling recharged and rested is the consequence. Feeling rested is a positive consequence of your behavior. The positive feelings that come from partaking in behavior is exactly what ABA is in a nutshell.

Now that ABA has been defined, let’s understand DTT. As we discussed, DTT is a subcategory of ABA. So it is also steeped in ABA’s notion of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. DTT is broken down into simplified and structured steps.

Instead of teaching an entire skill at once, the skill is broken down into discrete trials that teach each step one at a time. ABA rewards an individual’s behavior with positive feelings at the very end of the behavior, while DTT rewards an individual throughout the process of their behavior.

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    A cue to perform a behavior that leads to a reward.

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    Child's action as a result of the cue.

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    What happens following the response. The reward for the correct response.

Additionally, DTT works best with teaching complex behaviors and ABA works best with simpler behaviors. Like ABA, this teaching process also has its own steps to help instill positive behavior throughout complex tasks such as the (1) antecedent, (2) prompt, (3) response, (4) consequence for the response – correct or incorrect, and (5) interval between trials.

So what does that mean? For example, there are many steps involved for an individual to get ready for bed. This includes changing clothes, washing your face, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, reading a story, and then going to bed. Instead of providing a reward at the very end, DTT rewards all of the steps with little victories after they are completed. For instance, DTT would reward an individual after every single task listed above was completed. Simply put, DTT enforces positive behavior by rewarding all of the individual steps that help make up the big, overall action.

ABA and DTT help evoke positive feelings and positive behaviors. Although ABA and DTT are great at teaching kids with autism how to behave, these techniques also help many children without autism.

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For more information on ABA Therapy and Discrete Trial Training contact us!