DTT in ABA Therapy - Hidden Talents ABA

Discrete Trial Training: An ABA Therapy Technique

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March 23, 2022 Discrete Trial Training: An ABA Therapy Technique

If an ABA therapist is engaged in teaching your child emotions, they may break the concept of emotions into individual emotions. Each emotion will be broken down into specific lessons.

The Key To Success Is Consistency when it comes to implementing Discrete Trial Training (DTT) as an ABA therapy technique.
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Therapist conducting discrete trial training with a child with autism

Discrete Trial Training: A Powerful Tool for Children with Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. For parents and educators of children with autism, finding effective ways to teach skills and engage these children can be challenging. One method that has shown significant success is Discrete Trial Training (DTT).

What is Discrete Trial Training?

Discrete Trial Training is a teaching technique simplified and structured steps. Instead of teaching an entire skill in one go, the skill is broken down and "built-up" using discrete trials that teach each step one at a time (Smith, 2001).

Each trial or teaching opportunity has a definite beginning and end, thus the descriptor "discrete trial." Within each trial, the teacher presents a task, the child responds, and the child's response is followed by a consequence such as a reward or correction.

The Power of DTT

The beauty of DTT is its simplicity and structure, which are often beneficial for children on the autism spectrum. The clear beginning and end to each trial can help to focus a child's attention and make learning more manageable and less overwhelming.

DTT can be used to teach a variety of skills, including social skills, academic skills, self-help skills, language skills, and play skills. It is particularly effective in teaching new material and behaviors (Smith, 2001).

How DTT Works

DTT typically follows a five-step process:

  1. Antecedent: This is the instruction or question given to the child. For example, "What is your name?"
  2. Prompt: If needed, the teacher gives the child a hint or guide to help them respond correctly. For instance, the teacher may point to themselves and say their name.
  3. Response: The child's behavior following the antecedent and prompt. This could be the child saying their name.
  4. Consequence: The teacher gives feedback based on the child's response. If the child responded correctly, they would receive praise or a small reward. If they responded incorrectly, the teacher would provide a gentle correction.
  5. Inter-trial Interval: A short break between trials to help the child process and prepare for the next trial.

Discrete Trial Training and ABA therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. One of the most critical instructional methods within ABA therapy for children with autism is Discrete Trial Training (DTT).

The Value of DTT for ABA Therapy

DTT is not only an excellent method for teaching academic and self-help skills but also for imparting social skills and other positive behaviors. By breaking down tasks into manageable parts, DTT makes learning more accessible for children with autism, fostering their confidence and independence.

The Process of DTT in ABA Therapy

In DTT, an action is divided into small, bite-sized pieces. Each step is taught separately, using positive reinforcement as a reward for correct responses. This helps children associate positive experiences with learning, motivating them to engage more fully in the process.

The Intensity and Duration of DTT in ABA Programs

What sets ABA programs using DTT apart is the intensity and duration of the training. The primary role of the discrete trial method for instruction ensures that each child receives focused, individualized attention. This intensive approach often leads to significant improvements in the child's skills over time (iidc.indiana.edu).


DTT is a powerful tool in ABA therapy for children with autism. Its structured, step-by-step approach coupled with the use of positive reinforcement, makes learning more accessible and enjoyable for these children. By focusing on individual skills and promoting positive behaviors, DTT can help children with autism reach their full potential.

Discrete Trial Training is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Like any teaching method, it should be tailored to the individual child's needs and abilities. However, its structured, step-by-step approach can make learning more accessible and less daunting for children with autism.

By breaking down complex tasks into manageable parts, DTT can empower children with autism to learn new skills and gain confidence in their abilities. With patience, consistency, and the right approach, DTT can be a powerful tool in helping children with autism reach their full potential.