ABA Therapy:  The Difference Between NET And DTT Therapies That Help Children Progress

by | Jun 17, 2022

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Therapy is known as the best practice treatment for autism as recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Psychiatric Association.  ABA is an evidence-based therapy for children with autism because the intervention has been studied through extensive and credible scientific research.  This therapy is effective and is considered the best practice therapy for helping children with autism improve their overall quality of life in a variety of ways from reducing challenging behaviors, improving self-care and life skills, and supporting the child’s social and communication skills.

Two of the most common ways to apply ABA Therapy is through the use of Natural Environment Training (NET) and Discrete Trial Training (DTT).  Other types of therapy include Occupational Therapy (OT) and Speech Therapy.

In this article, we’d like to focus on the differences between the NET and DTT therapies.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

DTT is widely used today and probably best known within the field of ABA therapy.  It is a form of highly structured and focused teaching.  This method utilizes repetitive trials that occur during each session.  This structure allows for multiple learning opportunities per therapy session in a distraction-free environment.  

Typically, these sessions happen in a smaller room with just the therapist and child sitting at a desk or table.  DTT allows the therapist and the child to work on a focused program plan.  It also allows therapists to set up clear expectations for the child and he or she learns not only the intended lesson but also learns how to follow instructions.  Positive reinforcement for lessons learned are a key component for motivating the child to want to learn.  Once time has been spent learning in a focused DTT session, the learning is generalized in a more natural environment.  

Natural Environment Training (NET)

This type of teaching is much less structured than DTT.  The NET method is all about learning in a child’s more natural environment.  It is solely focused on learning through play or learning through the child’s daily activities.  These teaching opportunities can be established in all different kinds of settings.  Opportunities for learning can take place in the playroom, art room, lunchroom, circle time with other children and many other scenarios.  Field trips to the zoo, shows, the park, grocery stores and many other places are opportunities to teach the child to follow instructions and manage emotions and desires. This method implements teaching opportunities, still one-to-one with their therapist, while the child continues to play, without realizing any teaching is going on.  Parents love NET too because it allows the child to learn in areas, oftentimes they’ve been avoiding because of behavioral challenges.  NET sessions are usually full of movement, language and can occur in and out of the home.

DTT is a more structured approach, while NET allows the child to apply skills in the natural setting in which they occur.  Although there are differences between these teaching therapies, there are many important benefits to implementing both forms of therapy.  The combination of these therapies in a child’s treatment plan makes ABA Therapy highly effective. 

Every treatment plan is individualized to each child’s needs and is assessed and adjusted as needed for that child.  Success On The Spectrum is committed to helping every child we care for to progress to the best of their abilities so that they may live a life of their choosing.