Discrete Trial Training? What is it? How do I use it?
discrete trial training students with special needs
What is it?

DTT is a researched-based ABA technique that is teacher-led intensive instruction that breaks tasks into smaller parts.  This teacher strategy falls under the umbrella of Applied Behavior Analysis.  DTT uses tangible reinforcers for correct responses.  This specific approaches been proven to be very effective for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

DTT instruction has 5 major parts: 

  1. tasks are broken into smaller parts
  2. master the small part
  3. intensive lessons
  4. prompts that are faded
  5. reinforced by tangible incentives
How do I use it in my classroom?
Using DTT in your classroom is easy.  DTT is meant as one on one instruction.   To do DTT with validity, you need to know the stages of learning!

In order to implement this technique successfully, you will need to be sitting very close to the child and have reinforcers and the activity ready to go, along with a data sheet.

There is a 5 step process to this technique
1. Antecedent: [teacher says “give me red”]
2. Prompt:  [teacher points to the red]
3. Response:  [child gives the teacher the red card]
4. Consequence:  [teacher gives treat and praise]
5. Interval between trials: [take data, give hive five, have student touch nose]

Reinforcement is a critical part of DTT and has to be something that the child wants to work for. If you have time, try to complete an interest assessment on the child to find out what the hierarchy of incentives is.  For example, I had one student before who only ever liked watching episodes of Phineas and Ferb on his iPad, so his reinforcement was 15-20 seconds of an episode.  And that was enough!!   Let me show you how that would look:

SCENARIO #1 (Joshua):

Teacher and Joshua sits down at the table.  Teacher is prepared with iPad and the activity.  Teacher sits directly across from Joshua.    Teacher is trying to teach Joshua to identify a picture of a bear.

1. Teacher places a picture of a bear in front of Joshua. Teacher says “touch bear”.
Joshua doesn't respond.  He is looking at other stimuli.

2. Teacher repeats the question, “touch bear” and this time teacher also touches the picture.

3. Joshua then touches the bear.

4. Teacher praises Joshua and puts the iPad in front of him IMMEDIATELY and lets him watch 15-20 seconds of his favorite episode.

5. Teacher takes that 20 seconds to record his response on a data sheet.    Teacher would record “bear” and record that he did not identify it.

We call this one trial.  Teacher may being doing a group of animals and may move on to the next animal by repeating steps 1 – 5.

Let me give you another example.

SCENARIO #2 (Emily):

Teacher and Emily sits down at the table.  Teacher is prepared with the activity and has done an incentive assessment on Emily prior to this lesson and knows that Emily loves goldfish.  Teacher sits directly across from Emily.    Teacher is trying to teach Emily to identify 10 sight words.

1. Teacher places 3 sight words in front of Emily.  Teacher says, “give me can“.

2. Emily gives the teacher a flashcard that says ‘because'.  Teacher puts ‘because' aside and repeats the question without giving any response to the wrong answer.  Teacher points to “can” and says “give me can

3. Emily sees that the teacher pointed to “can” and gives the teacher that card.

4. Teacher praises student and IMMEDIATELY gives Emily one goldfish.

5. Teacher records the data and says “give me a high five” this is just enough distraction to go right back to the question.    Repeat the question.

I usually will do 10-20 trials at a time.  This method can be used for so many subjects.  Wether you are teaching sight words or just want them to follow one-step directions, this is an easy way to teach and take reliable data.

Watch the videos below in action.

Are you looking for data forms to help you get all of you data organized?  Check out my data forms resrouce that has these DTT sheets and other progress monitoring things with it.  

Or you can pin this post for later:

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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