The Difference Between DTT and Task Analysis

DTT vs. Task Analysis: How to Know When to Use it?

In special education, there are times when you may use different types of learning techniques with your students. In autism classrooms, two main research-based techniques are DTT and Task Analysis. Let's look at the differences between DTT and Task Analysis within education so you can decide when it's best to use each with your students.

DTT vs. Task Analysis: How to know when to use it?

What Does DTT Stand for in ABA?

DTT stands for Discrete Trial Training. 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 approach has proven to be very effective for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). DTT is one on one instruction. To do DTT with validity, you need to know the stages of learning.

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
What has DTT Stand for in ABA?

The 3 Components of DTT

Discrete Trial Training looks at behavior as a three-step process: the antecedent (a cue or instruction), the behavior and the consequence. For example, when you're hungry (antecedent), you eat something (behavior) and then you feel better (consequence). Sometimes I like to use task boxes during Discrete Trial Training depending on what we are working on.

Here is an example of how to do discrete trial training:

Teacher and Joshua sit down at the table. The Teacher prepares by bringing the iPad and the activity. He/she 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.

The 3 components of DTT

What is a Task Analysis?

Next, let's discuss a task analysis. A Task analysis is the process of breaking a skill down into smaller, more manageable components. Once a task analysis is complete, it's used to teach learners with ASD a skill that is too challenging to teach all at once. A task analysis helps map out the tasks needed for your learners to be successful. To conduct a goal or task analysis, the best way to start is to simply describe what steps or procedures a person would need to take in order to perform a goal.

A task analysis can be really effective for teaching daily living skills. Sequence the steps for hygiene activities like hand washing, toothbrushing or toileting with younger students. With older students, you can try teaching more complex tasks such as making a sandwich, putting away groceries and setting the table.

What is a task analysis?

The Components of a Task Analysis

Task analysis is easy to use as it often requires few materials, is typically inexpensive and can be used in a variety of settings. Most importantly, it supports students who have difficulty with executive functioning skills like sequencing, working memory and attention. In addition, social stories and visual aids are often used to support a task analysis.

EXAMPLE TASK ANALYSIS: Setting the Table (Goodson et al., 2006)

  1. Puts down the placemat
  2. Places the large plate in the center of the placemat
  3. Puts the small plate in the upper left-hand side of the placemat
  4. Puts the butter knife on the small plate
  5. Places the napkin to the left of the large plate
The components of a task analysis


Discrete Trial Training Data Sheet

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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