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Question 1: What types of skills should be taught with discrete trial training? >>
Question 2: What is the best way to determine appropriate reinforcers to be used in discrete trial training? >>
Question 3: How frequently should discrete trial training take place? >>
Question 4: What strategies can be used to increase the likelihood that generalization and maintenance of the target skills will occur? >>
Question 5: What is the best way to complete a task analysis? >>
Discrete trial training can be utilized with a range of skills, including basic communication (e.g. language production), functional tasks (e.g. using a spoon to eat a meal) and behaviors (e.g. staying with an adult during a grocery store visit). DTT is an approach that is most useful for skills that learners are not initiating on their own, and that have a clear, correct procedure, and that can be taught in a one-to-one setting. DTT is most appropriate for skills that do not require group interaction.
Depending on the length of the discrete trial training sessions and the complexity of the skill, discrete trial training can be conducted on a daily basis, and this would benefit child learning the most. However, the way the trials are structured is dependent on the child’s educational needs. For example, there may be a 30 minute daily independent work time that allows the team member to work one-on-one with the learner at least three times a week, but having that session for 15 minutes every day may result in more rapid learning.
Team members can increase the likelihood that skills will be generalized by continuing to cue and reinforce the target skills across all settings. For example, if the target skill is entering the classroom and putting personal items away in a cubby, practitioners should provide a positive verbal response to each instance of this behavior, even after the completion of formal discrete training trials. Communication between team members is vital to promote generalization of skills. It is also important to work closely with families, to ensure that target skills are generalized and maintained in the home environment, and to include peers as conversational or social partners to ensure reinforcement of skills and to promote normalcy. If skills are not being generalized, it is important to target generalization as a learning objective, using a range of teaching strategies to promote generalization (Stokes & Baer, 1977). Generalization strategies may include teaching a skill across different settings, varying instructions (e.g., “Give me the circle” and “I want the circle”), utilizing several instructors (e.g., teachers, paraprofessionals, family members, peers), and running lessons with variations of materials presented (e.g., big cups vs. little cups, black letters vs. green letters, written numbers vs. typed numbers).
A task analysis can be completed by the members of the learner’s educational team. Once the target skill is identified, it may be important to gain consensus on the key steps necessary to complete the skill, particularly by the expert in that domain (e.g, consulting a speech language pathologist regarding an expressive language objective, or an occupational therapist for a fine motor objective, etc…). One approach to completing a task analysis is to actually complete the skill, stopping at each distinct point to note the discrete steps. For example, if the target skill is making a bed, the team would walk through the steps of a bed making routine and write down each step (e.g. 1. Pull up sheet to headboard. 2. Tuck in sheets under mattress. 3. Pull up blanket or comforter to headboard. 4. Place pillow at the top of the bed.)