June 22, 2021


What is Discrete Trial Training (DTT) in ABA | What Is It?

Discrete Trial Training

People often get confused between the terms Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Chicago.

In most cases when parents are talking about ABA programs for their children who have autism or other developmental disorders, they are mostly referring to Discrete trial training instead of ABA. Discrete trial training is one of the numerous types of teaching strategies that are used in ABA therapy.

This article will tell you all you need to know about Discrete trial training, and what it is:

What is Discrete Trial Training (DTT)?

Discrete trial training (DTT) is the commonly used strategy implemented in ABA therapy Chicago. It is a common method of teaching children in which the therapist (or adult) makes use of adult-directed and massed trial instruction for their strength, and clear contingencies and constant repetition in order to teach children a variety of new skills. 

Discrete trial training is an ideal and effective method for developing a new response to a stimulus. Moreover, once a skill is learned in the DTT format, it is highly crucial to develop plans in order to teach generalized use of the new skill across different environments, materials, and people. It is also important to develop teaching plans for learner initiation of new skills.

In an ABA therapy program, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder learn faster and effectively with discrete trial teaching (DTT). For instance, numerous children with autism don’t necessarily imitate their environment. 

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ABA Therapy

In ABA therapy, first, the simple imitation of objects and actions is taught. For example, how to pound a hammer or how to skip rope. 

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Because imitation is an important skill to learn, ABA therapy successfully breaks such tasks down into more simple and manageable steps. This method is used for individualizing and simplifying instruction in order to enhance children’s learning.

There are 3 common components that are used in order to effectively teach children who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder:

  •     the discriminative stimulus (SD)/ the command;
  •     the behavior of the child in the therapy;
  •     the consequence of the child in the therapy; and

Therefore, therapists make use of these three simple components, as well as using effective prompting strategies in order to help the child achieve success and learn a variety of new skills that are acceptable in society. 

Moreover, autistic children soon begin to learn new skills they might lack such as imitation, language, speech, communication, play. Social skills and academic skills, and much more.

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Techniques Involved in Discrete Trial Training:

There are several different techniques that are involved in and are used in Discrete Trial Training.

Breaking skills down into component parts

The first is breaking down complicated and complex skills into smaller and component parts. For instance, while teaching colors to the child, the therapist will first place one red and one blue card on the table in front of the child so that they can study and understand. Then, the therapist will ask the child to point to red, and the child will then point at red successfully. 

After this correct guess, the child will be applauded and given positive reinforcement. The therapist will then take a short pause before conducting a new discrete trial again. With a different color this time.

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Teaching each skill component until mastery is attained

The therapist will continuously work with the child until the child masters specific skills. Moreover, the activity will be repeated until the child will be able to perform the skill independently. 

Teaching sessions

This includes full gestural trials, partial gestural trials, and independent trials.

Using prompts as needed and fading prompts as appropriate

Prompts are common supplemental teaching aids usually used by therapists to teach children. Moreover, there are numerous types of prompts that could be used, for example, verbal prompts, non-verbal prompts, and hand-over-hand prompts.

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Using reinforcement strategies to increase skills

Positive reinforcement is highly crucial when the child is mastering skills and doing things correctly. This can be in the form of verbal praise or through a token economy or a delivery of tangible reinforcers as well.

Success of Discrete Trial Training

Discrete trial training is highly successful in teaching skills and is recommended by experts as well. It is one of the biggest factors behind the success of ABA therapy for helping children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, as well as other developmental disorders. 

It has not only been proven to be effective in teaching children with autism new forms of behavior, but also one of the most effective approaches of teaching them important discrimination skills. 

Moreover, it is highly effective in teaching children a variety of physical and verbal imitation skills as well. However, it requires extensive work for it to be effective and successful.

Discrete Trial Training

Because Discrete trial training is a very intensive therapy program, it can be very time and energy-consuming. Usual Discrete trial training sessions happen mostly five days a week, which can sum up to 40 hours per week in total. 

This is because regular sessions are important. And every small step of the interaction and situation needs to be monitored for it to be effective.

The overall work and sessions of discrete trial therapy can be a very slow process altogether, and can even become frustrating at times. This is because the therapy sessions require extensive repetition until the specific skills are learned and retained until the child can do them independently. 

Moreover, the therapist will only move forward with the pace of each child and what they can manage, no matter how long it will take. 

Moreover, if the child seems to be losing focus, the therapist will find new ways or approaches, which can also take more time. However, even though DTT is highly time-consuming and energy-draining, numerous parents often get impatient with the whole process. 

However, this type of strategy in ABA has been proven to be highly helpful to such children in achieving high in life and fitting in society better than before.

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