Discrete Trial Teaching – DTT

A young child associated with autism usually has a special need and want, therefore we need to approach with a unique method, technique teaching. After being officially diagnosed with ASD, parents consider to sign up for one treatment, a program that would bring some positive for the child’s development.

So far, on this website, I have presented some treatments, therapies, programs that might fit your family situation, your child since no one like each other. Even the child associated with autism, the child displays the symptoms also very varies from child to child. The most common choice for a newly diagnosed family is the ABA – Applied Behaviors Analysis. Associated and derived from ABA programs, we have some therapies, treatments under the ABA umbrella such as ESDM – Early Start Denver Model, VB – Verbal Behavior, PRT – Pivotal Response Treatment. And here is one more distinct from ABA, and focus more on teaching small skills to the child by breaking down smaller steps: DTT.

This acronym is at least two different explanation. With autism world, DTT is Discrete Trial Teaching/ training. DTT also has other names such as Discrete Trial Instruction and Lovaas method (named after the psychologist). DTT also has one term which lightly involves with autism. DTT as known as Distorted Tunes Test. It’s about the hearing testing. You would hear a series of tunes. Your job is determining that tunes played correctly or not. Here is the Distorter Tune Test you can test yourself. It’s similar to 5 minutes hearing test.

What is the similarity between DTT vs ABA?

Let’s get familiar with this simple definition: DTT presenting a learning opportunity in which the student’s correct response will be reinforced.-> it means DTT is likely as a method, a technique to use than a whole program, a treatment that needs to well-designed.

It means the first common purpose is converting the child negative behaviors (such as self-injuring behaviors, aggressive, etc.) into the positive -> it leads to the difference

  • DTT is teacher directed. With this method, the teacher, the trainer is the controller. He/she will target specific skills on an established curriculum (it’s usually the classroom on the setting one-on-one with table, desk. It needs to be minimal the distraction for the student. -> If the student is distracted or can’t focus, this method DTT could not bring a positive result).
  • ABA takes the child as the heart momentum. ABA also targets the wide spectrum that child is disability with.

The second difference is the strategy.

  • DTT uses the prompt, the clue -> give the opportunity to the child-> if the child action matches with the designed result from the trainer, he/she will offer the compliment as a reinforcement-> next, the trainer also give a toy or a thing that motivates the child-> I find this technique is similar to habit. How much you understand your habits? do you know how the habit is formed? Lets me share a little about how our habit works. This habit can be applied to anyone, even with children associated with autism. Habit need three basic elements ( the clue-> the routine-> the reward) to form in shape. In my opinion, this DTT wants to build one new positive habit.
  • ABA embraces the nature with the purpose changing the behaviors.

How DTT looks like?

What do you think after scan the short video above?

With DTT, they have three components:

  • The experimenter presented the stimuli (or the habit’s clue) to the child
  • Then she waits about 3 seconds for the child response (it considers as a routine)
  • In the video, the child responses in the correct way as the experimenter designed, expected. (another routine)
  • Last, the child will be treated (reward in the habit) in two ways: a compliment plus the high-five.

Where the DTT takes place?

The location where DTT takes place is one critical point since it requires distraction free. That is the must. Therefore, it’s little hard to find the place. DTT usually takes place in the classroom in the clinic or in the small classroom of a special school for disabled children. Below is DTT in the real classroom with two instructors taking the role.

If you think how about the home, private room? it could be used, but it needs to be distraction free for the child. However, it would cost more for the instructor travel, so usually, DTT is founded in the clinic, the center for autism treatments.

When DTT changes and adapts the circumstances?

As the child shows some significant positive behaviors, the BCBA will modify the ABA program to fit a new goal, to changes other behaviors. Unlike with ABA, DTT doesn’t change much. Until now, DTT has some critiques and limitations when scientists compare DTT with other programs, treatments for autism children.

If you wonder about the DTT critical in the past, it was:

  • The fixed setting environmental. DTT in the past needs one quite place. It also needs to be set up and structured in advance before the child comes. -> the limitation is the child condition. You have known what young children are playful, and some children with autism are the same. Some children can not sit still in one place and follow the DTT instruction.
  • DTT might demand more, put more pressure on the teacher, the instructor; therefore, the child might rebel, run away.

Meeting those limitations, DTT in the past (it can be called DTT traditional) makes some changes. Nowadays, we have embedded DTT and the error-less. It is two levels that the female instructor of the above video did.

With the new embedded DTT, the instructor interacts more with the child. New DTT uses the play-round idea plus error less instruction plus the traditional DTT.

For example

During Sawyer’s embedded DTT sessions, the experimenter allowed Sawyer to play with one piece of train track and the Thomas train for approximately 10 s. The experimenter then removed the track and train and presented the 3 picture cards, each attached to a piece of track. Then the experimenter provided the instruction (e.g., “Point to the vegetable”) and allowed 3 s for a response. If Sawyer selected the correct picture card, the experimenter provided praise, gave the piece of track to Sawyer and allowed him to play with it, the other accumulated pieces of track, and the train for 30 s. Then the experimenter removed the train and tracks to present the next trial. The acquired pieces of track accumulated across trials so that if he got all the trials correct in the session, he would have a complete 10-piece track that connected in an oval shape. If Sawyer selected the incorrect picture or did not select a picture within 3 s, the experimenter restated the instruction and pointed to the correct picture. Pointing to the correct picture always resulted in a correct selection, so no additional prompts were used. Once Sawyer was correct, the experimenter provided praise and allowed him to play with the train and his accumulated pieces of track for 30 s, but he did not acquire a new piece of track. Embedded DTT sessions continued until the participant reached the acquisition criterion of three consecutive sessions with 100% accuracy.

Credit from the study “Teaching Receptive Discrimination to Children With Autism: A Comparison of Traditional and Embedded Discrete Trial Teaching”


Why should you consider DTT for the child with autism?

I’m not trained, certificated DTT instructor, so I would like to let the real instructor speaks. Following is the video one DTT session. Usually, one DTT session takes about 10 minutes. The child might need to do three DTT sessions per day. It grounds up from 20 to 40 hours per week depend on the child condition plus the instructor’s personality as well. If you choose the DTT for the child, I recommend you to preview the instructor profile, experiences, philosophy since this DTT is similar to ABA about the fee. You might end up $60k for one year using DTT, and the child shows a little positive. That’s why I look for the DTT video for you to watch. The DTT is the good one, but it might not fit with your child.

What do you think about this DTT (both traditional and embedded)? Would your child fit DTT? Or you prefer to preview some more programs, some more treatments, and therapies for the core symptoms? (I would like to remind you that those programs, treatments, and therapies I have been presented so far, all are good for the autism core symptoms. ASD – autism spectrum disorder has very widely associated and side symptoms. We will slowly walkthrough.)

Please leave a reply below about your opinion, ideas. Thank you for reading so far.

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