2020 Behavior

NET vs. DTT ABA Programs and the Benefits of Individualized Programs

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a highly effective approach for supporting children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Among the various methodologies within ABA, two prominent ones are Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET). Each method has distinct characteristics and benefits, and often, a combination of both yields the best results. Additionally, the benefits of individualized programs in ABA therapy cannot be overstated.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

DTT is a structured, systematic method of teaching that breaks down skills into smaller, manageable tasks. This method is typically conducted in a controlled environment, such as a therapy room, where distractions are minimized. Each session consists of clear instructions, a response from the child, and immediate feedback, either in the form of reinforcement or correction. The structured nature of DTT allows for repetitive practice and the mastery of specific skills in a short period.

Advantages of DTT:

  1. Clear Structure: The highly organized sessions help children understand expectations and focus on the task.
  2. Repetition: Frequent repetition aids in solidifying learning.
  3. Immediate Reinforcement: Children receive prompt feedback, which helps reinforce correct responses.

Natural Environment Training (NET)

NET is a more flexible, child-led approach that integrates learning into natural settings and daily activities. This method emphasizes using the child’s interests and everyday experiences to create learning opportunities. Unlike the controlled setting of DTT, NET can take place anywhere, from home to playgrounds, making learning more natural and less clinical

Advantages of NET:

  1. Real-World Application: Skills are taught in the context where they will be used, enhancing generalization.
  2. Engagement: Children are often more motivated and engaged because the learning activities are based on their interests.
  3. Flexibility: Learning opportunities can be seized spontaneously throughout the day.

Benefits of Individualized Programs

An individualized ABA program tailors interventions to meet the unique needs of each child. This customization is crucial because every child with autism has different strengths, challenges, and preferences. Individualized programs often incorporate a blend of DTT and NET, leveraging the strengths of each method to maximize the child’s progress

Key Benefits:

  1. Personalized Goals:Targets are set based on the specific needs and developmental level of the child.
  2. Adaptive Methods:Therapists can switch between DTT and NET based on what works best for the child in different situations.
  3. Holistic Development: A combination of structured and naturalistic teaching helps in the overall development of the child, including social, communication, and life skills.

Choosing the Right Approach

While both DTT and NET have their distinct advantages, the decision on which method to use often depends on the child’s individual needs and therapy goals. For example, DTT might be more effective for teaching discrete skills like following instructions, while NET might be better suited for developing social and communication skills in a natural context

Questions to Consider:

  • What are the specific goals for the child’s therapy?
  • How does the child respond to structured versus flexible teaching environments?
  • What are the child’s interests and how can they be incorporated into learning?

By asking these questions, therapists and parents can better determine the optimal balance between DTT and NET in the child’s individualized ABA program.


Incorporating both DTT and NET in an individualized ABA program offers a balanced approach that caters to the unique needs of each child. This combined strategy not only helps in mastering specific skills but also ensures these skills are applicable in real-world settings, ultimately supporting the child’s overall development and quality of life.


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