Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

4 Jun

In making my course for teachers and paras for students with severe disabilities, I’ve been looking for content related to what we do in the classroom. Today I decided to work on Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) sometimes also called Discrete Trial Instruction (DTI). Same thing, different name.

I prefer video over text alone, so I went first to TeacherTube, since the school system doesn’t block that site. However, the only video there on the subject is the one I posted. Oh well. YouTube is a better source for videos on anything and a search there was much more fruitful. Here’s one working with a very young child. No matter the age, the same rules always apply. Keep the instruction consistent, reinforce independent responses, and record the responses for data analysis. The YouTube video gives very comprehensive, yet concise instruction on the topic and I’d love to use it.

There is also a series of Lovaas training videos on YouTube which are much more advanced, behaviorally speaking, but the one listed above gives a better overview in a lot less time . Part 1 shows how not to do it in the beginning, which you can see from the comments elicited strong reactions from a few viewers. It’s a bit dated, but you get a good view of a purer form of DTT from the Lovaas people. There are many YouTube videos in a variety of languages worth looking at and these are mostly used for and by parents. Teachers and paras really need to tap into this information, too.

Typing in “ABA” reveals a lot of videos showing it in action, mostly with very young children with autism. DTT is not the same thing as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is more of a global description of a system. It’s sort of like referring to “rain” as “weather.” Yes, rain is weather, but it’s only one aspect of weather and even precipitation. Weather encompasses all manner of meteorological events including wind current, barometric pressure and the jet stream. ABA encompasses a whole lot more topography beyond just DTT, but a lot of people outside the field confuse the two.

I recently put a couple more videos up showing some of what I do with a type of DTT here and here. This is also serving as a sort of tutorial in modeling for para instruction at the same time instructing the student. I probably need to make a more explicit para training video since that is a big issue for most special ed teachers.

I like DTT because it is straightforward, and something that paras can learn and do pretty easily. It can yield some good data and works well with short-term IEP objectives. It is something that is not expensive to set up, and it is accessible to anyone who wants to learn how to do it.

Catherine Maurice’s Behavior Intervention for Young Children remains one of the best and most accessible resources on the subject even though she makes the common mistake of confusing ABA with DTT. Many of these interventions can be used with older students with severe autism and you’ll recognize what we do in the videos compared to what is done with the youngsters. It’s only been within the last 10 years that DTT really took off in the autism community, so students in high school were probably never exposed to this behavioral technology at a younger age.


4 Responses to “Discrete Trial Training (DTT)”

  1. Flora Mante at 2:48 pm #

    Where is the best place to go to learn discreet trial? I work in a school district as a praproffesional that has just opened classes that use discreet trial. I would like to work within these classes but do not want to go into it cold or without any education. I was offered on the job training but am not willing to learn at the expence of the children. I live in northern New Jersey, can you please help?

  2. Daniel Dage at 9:53 am #

    On-the-job training with feedback really is the bast way to learn this. As long as you are supervised by someone who knows what they are doing, you’re not going to hurt the students. Remember, for those with severe disabilities, it may take hundreds or even thousands of trials for them to learn a new skill! The book I linked to above has some great information for your own reference. Good luck!

  3. JohnL at 5:46 am #

    Flora, although I agree that on-the-job training is especially valuable, many reputable folks probably conduct training sessions in your area. Organizations such as Association for Behavior Analysis International, Association for Science in Autism Treatment, and the Cambridge Center should be able to refer you to some providers. Also, Penn State has a special program in ABA (not the same as DTT, as Daniel noted) and you might be able to get an entire class from Rick Kubina and others there.

    Hey, DD, please send me a note via back channels. A recent message to you bounced.

  4. Anonymous at 8:03 pm #

    Nice video but I didn’t see any reinforcements. I thought they are to be obvious to the student.

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