What is ABA? Discrete Trial Training

I finished my training and started this week as a behavioral therapist! I have learned so much through training but know I will continue to learn more as I learn more about each child and understand what really works for them individually. Throughout training we learned about the numerous principles and procedures of applied behavior analysis (ABA), but in particular spent significant time understanding what Discrete Trail Training (DTT) is and how to use it effectively. This particular teaching procedure is comprised of adult-structured trials of learning opportunities. Each learning opportunity has a stimulus, response and consequence. Each stimulus is presented in a very specific manner, a correct response depends on the child, and the consequence is either a reinforcer or a verbal “no”, but never is an adverse consequence used.

In reading the Vismara and Rogers article that I discussed in the last blog, I learned about studies that have been done on the effectiveness of DTT. In 1987, Lovaas did a comparison study of a type of DTT called Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), of 40 hours a week versus a control group of EIBI of ten hours a week, and another group of children receiving other types of behavioral intervention programs. The EIBI group of 40 hours or more a week gained an average of 20 IQ points over the two year period and 47 percent of these children reached average intellectual functioning, whereas the other groups showed no significant change in IQ level.

While DTT has more published scientific evidence supporting it’s use with children with autism than any other single procedure, much research has demonstrated the effectiveness of other ABA teaching procedures (Steege et al. 2007). These days, most or all top-quality comprehensive ABA programs, including CARD, use multiple methods in order to individualize the intervention program and to fully address all relevant skill deficits and behavioral excesses as possible. While DTT is important, it is also important to make sure these skills are being used in everyday situations. While it may sound obvious, I really didn’t understand how each child is really unique and needs its own individual intervention approach in order for the therapy to be successful. I started learning about ABA therapy because I love teaching children, but I know I am learning a lot from them about how to be creative, loving and to see the uniqueness in each child.

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