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Discrete Trial Training: Unlocking the Benefits for Autism

Do you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) struggling to learn? Are you looking for ways to teach them essential skills that empower them and limit you from feeling overwhelmed as a parent or caregiver? Discrete Trial Training (DTT) utilized within ABA therapy may be your family’s current solution. For many, discrete trial training unlocks a child’s potential in helpful, consistent ways that are possible to replicate across settings and people. When done correctly, DTT can be a playful and gratifying experience for easy learning.

Many parents with a child on the spectrum know that teaching them how to manage everyday encounters can be challenging, especially if their child has profound autism. Fortunately, ABA therapy, also called Applied Behavior Analysis, is the gold standard in autism care utilizing several evidence-based practices to enhance many neurodivergent families’ lives.

ABA Centers of Florida is an ABA therapy agency offering autism services and helpful resources to families with autism. In this post, we will explore why discrete trial training is valuable for many children diagnosed with ASD, its advantages (both short-term and long-term), and meaningful ways you can support DTT learning outside of ABA sessions.

In many cases, children receiving discrete trial training through ABA therapy gain new abilities while refining existing strengths, leading to far-reaching success beyond their engagement in ABA sessions. By the end of this blog, we hope to provide you with all the information you need to decide whether you want to utilize discrete trial training in your loved one’s treatment course.

For more information about ABA Centers of Florida and how we support neurodivergent children and teenagers daily, click here.

What Is Discrete Trial Training, and How Is It Used In ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy addresses many core complexities or limiting features of autism, like difficulty learning, so individuals with the condition can flourish in the best ways for them. ABA professionals utilize discrete trial training globally to teach children with autism meaningful skills through positive reinforcement strategies, repetition, and expert guidance. DTT also supports other core facets of autism by addressing areas like communication, social interaction, and daily living skills that support better experiences.

Discrete trial training is a fundamental technique used in ABA therapy to support individuals affected by autism to learn more effectively. During a discrete trial, the provider presents the learner with an opportunity in which they receive reinforcement for a correct response. 

The discrete trial training process typically employs a structured approach to teaching that involves breaking down a skill into small, manageable components. Systemically, the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) providing ABA therapy will teach the learner skills individually, providing positive reinforcement for successful outcomes.

By implementing discrete trial teaching, ABA providers can better customize their coaching to the individual’s learning style, needs, and abilities, ultimately helping them achieve their long-term goals and use their skills wherever they may be.

Examples of Discrete Trial Training

A child with ASD may utilize discrete trial teaching to learn to identify different shapes. The following is an example of DTT in practice:

A provider presents the client with a targeted shape and asks them to name it. If the client names the shape correctly, they receive praise or a highly motivating reward.

Providers can expand on skills even further with new learning. Next, the provider may begin to incorporate teaching a different shape by itself and reinforce that correctly. Once the child has mastered understanding both forms, the provider may present them side by side and reinforce appropriate identification again. When the child can identify the various targeted shapes, the RBT may focus on the shape’s color and then reinforce that learning.

By systematically breaking down skills and providing positive feedback, discrete trial training enables individuals with autism to learn fundamental skills that will support their social, emotional, and cognitive development. It establishes an association with demonstrating positive behaviors and experiencing better outcomes overall.

Positive Reinforcement and Discrete Trial Teaching

Positive reinforcement is critical to discrete trial training and ABA therapy overall. When a child performs a skill correctly, they should receive some form of reinforcement or reward, even if it’s systematically scheduled or delayed. The reinforcement can be praise, tokens, a preferred activity, or anything highly motivating but safe for the individual.

Benefits of Discrete Trial Training In ABA Therapy

For individuals with autism, learning can be challenging for many reasons, unique to each learner. However, discrete trial training is an effective teaching method that positively impacts the child’s development. By tailoring teaching to the individual’s personal skill set and pace, DTT provides a clear framework for learning, which enhances areas in children that serve them both short and long-term, including:

  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Attention Span
  • Self-Awareness

With the continued use of DTT, children with autism can make significant developmental gains within a supportive learning environment.

Parents Can Support Progress Made in Discrete Trial Training

As a parent of a child with autism, assessing your child’s progress using DTT in ABA therapy sessions can be helpful. By observing ABA sessions and asking your child’s provider questions, you can more comprehensively understand your child’s strengths and challenges to ensure their DTT goals are appropriate and relevant. You can also gauge how they are doing with DTT by looking for signs of progress.  

Do your best to assess if your child is completing the tasks correctly. Are they doing it independently or with some guidance? Another means of determining success is tracking their skill acquisition over time. Keep records of what they learn, their accuracy rate, and the prompts most typically needed. Doing so will give you a clearer picture of how far your child has come and what areas need more assistance. Additionally, it will help you support their goals more sufficiently outside of ABA therapy.

Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s best, most informed advocate. Be sure to communicate with your child’s ABA team and share concerns.

Consistency for Effective DTT Results in ABA Therapy

Consistency is critical when utilizing discrete trial training in ABA therapy for individuals with autism. ABA professionals and caregivers should be diligent in their DTT approach, ensuring they use the same prompts, gratifying reinforcement, and error-correction strategies are in place each time they practice.

With consistency, the child may be less inclined to feel confused and frustrated with DTT and ABA sessions overall, leading to more progress and enjoyment during sessions. Through the consistent and correct use of DTT in ABA therapy, children with autism have more positive learning interactions and make stronger connections with their environment. So it’s essential to ensure expert support as you apply the technique and practice skills.

Discrete Trial Teaching Supports Better Outcomes

Discrete Trial Training is one of the most effective evidence-based protocols used in ABA therapy. By understanding the basics of DTT, such as setting goals, breaking down tasks, and consistently reinforcing the targeted behavior, you can help your child learn more effectively during their ABA therapy sessions and understand many of the principles used during ABA therapy.

Caregivers should understand how to assess their child’s progress and how to reward successes to keep up their child’s hard work. Furthermore, consistency throughout sessions will ensure that your child gets the best out of their ABA routine. Over time and with practice, your child can achieve their goals and have better experiences.

More About ABA Centers of Florida

If you’re searching for a reliable provider of ABA therapy that can help your child with ASD reach their full potential through helpful ABA techniques like discrete trial teaching and positive reinforcement, consider a free, zero-obligation call with ABA Centers of Florida. We can support you and your family using cutting-edge, scientifically validated behavioral approaches to ASD care.

We employ only the best in ABA talent to serve our neurodivergent clients in ways that lead to a deeper connection with the world around them and a renewed sense of hope. For more information about us and your options for diagnostic services or ABA therapy for your loved one with autism, call us at (772) 773-1975 or contact us here.

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