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MODULE: Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Why Use DTT?

Before Dr. Lovaas applied DTT techniques to teach children with autism, many professionals considered the children with autism ‘unteachable’ (Lovaas, 1981).  One of the reasons that professionals may have felt that way is because many children with autism required skills to be broken down into small clear steps and carefully taught with many repetitions and clear instructions and rewards (National Research Council, 2001). Behavioral researchers demonstrated that, if each targeted behavior was followed closely by a consequence (either a reinforcer or a ‘punisher’), the child was able to learn the skills more quickly. Lovaas found that children with autism learned well through many repetitions of the same stimulus or direction (massed trials), a simplified teaching environment, prompting, prompt-fading, and consistent delivery of reinforcement (Lovaas, 1981, 1987; Koegel, 2000). Finally, since children with autism often are helped by learning environments with greater structure (National Research Council, 2001) the consistent and predictable manner in which DTT is conducted was felt to be conducive to learning for children and youth with ASD.

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