Age Groups for DTT vs. NET in Pediatric ABA Therapy

Every child on the autism spectrum has a unique way of learning and processing information. This is one of the most interesting (as well as challenging) aspects of developing an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy treatment plan. In order to fit the abilities and needs of all children, many different methods of ABA therapy have been developed in recent years. One method is DTT, or Discrete Trial Training, and another is NET, or Natural Environment Teaching. While ABA therapy can be helpful in both adults and children who are on the autism spectrum, not every method is geared toward every age range, so some methods may be more helpful than others, depending on the age of the individual. Both DTT and NET focus on building socially significant behaviors in children with autism, including communication, language, and social skills.

What is DTT in ABA therapy?
DTT is an evidence-based method of ABA therapy that is typically used in children between the ages of two and nine. This method of therapy is used to teach complex socially significant behaviors by first teaching small pieces of that skill. This method teaching skills in a progression, rather than all at once, which can be helpful for younger children who may struggle with the more complex skills. While DTT can be very helpful with some skills, NET may be used to help a child learn more complex skills that require a higher level of emotional understanding, for example.

What is NET in ABA therapy?
NET focuses on many of the same skills that DTT therapy does in children of a similar age range (approximately two to nine years old), but this method, as mentioned, can be more successful in teaching more complex skills. The primary difference between DTT and NET, however, is that NET presents the lessons in the “natural” environment and through natural play. This format is typically less structured than DTT. While this can be helpful for some children, it is also necessary to eliminate outside distractions, in order for NET to be successful (this is a risk when working NET into natural environments). Throughout NET, the therapist will motivate the child by using an area/object of high interest (the child will have control over what this positive reinforcement is and be allowed to choose this). For example, if a child is exhibiting a positive behavior, they will be able to play one game on the iPad (a positive reinforcement that they selected).

While some methods are suggested for certain age ranges, this recommendation is also not set in stone. Just because a certain method is recommended for a specific age range does not mean that other ages cannot benefit from that method. Keep in mind that every individual is unique, so what works for one child of a certain age might not work for another child of the same age.


Are you interested in learning more about DTT and NET in ABA therapy?
Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.