Discrete Trial Teaching

By Amy Zier, M.S., OTR/L and Kimberly Garvey Hoehne, M.A. What is Discrete Trial Teaching? Discrete trial teaching (DTT), often used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs, is a methodology aiming to help children learn developmentally appropriate skills of imitation, receptive/expressive language, pre-academic concepts, social relations, toy/peer play, and self-help/adaptive abilities. A discrete trial consists of an instruction or question to the child, the child’s response, reinforcement or consequences, and prompting, followed by fading prompts, as necessary. Skills are broken down into small, manageable tasks according to the child¹s level of ability.  The method promotes natural learning by teaching children how to learn from their environment. What does sensory processing have to do with DTT? Children who have difficulty processing sensory information often cannot efficiently utilize the range of learning activities used in discrete trial teaching. They may respond to the daily experience of touch, movement, sight and sound with a variety of negative behaviors and be unable to sustain…