Implementing Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) within the Home Setting


As parents and registered behavior technicians (RBTs), one of the most impactful ways to support children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is by implementing evidence-based interventions within the comfort of their own home. Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) is a structured teaching method widely used in applied behavior analysis (ABA) to foster skill development in children with ASD. In this blog, we will delve into what DTT entails, why it is used, how it can be effectively implemented at home, and tips for parents and RBTs to optimize its benefits.

Understanding Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)

Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) is a systematic and intensive teaching approach that breaks down complex skills into smaller, manageable components. It involves a structured sequence of teaching trials, each consisting of three parts: the Antecedent (SD or discriminative stimulus), the Behavior (response), and the Consequence (reinforcement or feedback). DTT aims to promote skill acquisition, reduce challenging behaviors, and enhance overall communication and social skills in children with ASD.

Why Use DTT?

DTT is grounded in the principles of ABA and has been shown to be effective in teaching a wide range of skills to individuals with autism. Its structured nature allows for consistent practice and immediate reinforcement, which can be especially beneficial for children who require a more systematic approach to learning. DTT is adaptable and can be tailored to address a variety of developmental areas, including communication, social interactions, self-care, and academic skills.

Implementing DTT in the Home Setting

  • Create a Structured Environment: Designate a quiet and organized space for DTT sessions. Minimize distractions and ensure all necessary materials are readily available.
  • Set Clear Goals: Define specific learning objectives for each DTT session. Break down complex skills into smaller, achievable steps to facilitate gradual progress.
  • Utilize Visual Supports: Visual aids, such as flashcards, visual schedules, and token boards, can enhance understanding and engagement during DTT sessions.
  • Use Prompts and Prompt Fading: Begin with prompts (cues) to guide the child’s response. Gradually fade prompts as the child becomes more proficient to promote independent learning.
  • Offer Reinforcement: Identify preferred reinforcers (rewards) that motivate the child. Immediate and consistent reinforcement helps reinforce desired behaviors.
  • Data Collection: Keep accurate records of each trial, noting the child’s response, correct/incorrect answers, and progress over time. This data helps track improvement and informs future teaching strategies.
  • Variety and Generalization: Introduce a variety of teaching materials and settings to ensure skills are generalized beyond the teaching environment.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Maintain open communication with other members of the child’s support team, including speech therapists, occupational therapists, and teachers, to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach.

Tips for Parents and RBTs

  • Patience and Flexibility: Progress may vary, and some skills may take longer to master. Be patient and flexible in your approach.
  • Consistency is Key: Regular, consistent practice is crucial for skill retention and generalization. Aim for daily practice sessions.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate each achievement, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement encourages continued effort.
  • Maintain a Positive Attitude: A positive and enthusiastic demeanor can greatly impact the child’s engagement and motivation.
  • Self-Care: Balancing caregiving and teaching responsibilities can be demanding. Prioritize self-care to ensure you are well-equipped to support the child effectively.


Implementing Discrete Trial Teaching within the home setting provides a structured and effective approach to nurturing the development of children with autism. By understanding the principles of DTT, setting clear goals, utilizing visual supports, and maintaining consistency, parents and RBTs can create an environment conducive to meaningful skill acquisition and progress. Remember, every small step forward is a significant achievement, and with dedication and teamwork, you can make a lasting impact on the child’s growth and well-being.

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