Differences Between Natural Environment Training (NET) and Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

There are many different ways to apply ABA therapy for children. Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET) are just two of those teaching techniques.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

This is widely used today and probably best known within the field of ABA therapy. It’s a form of ‘unnatural’ highly structured teaching. The ‘unnatural’ environment of this method comes from the repetitive trials that occur during each session. This structure allows for multiple learning opportunities per therapy session. If you want to learn more about DTT, click here to read a previous blog post discussing the teaching in detail.

DTT is a great method to use because it gives therapists the ability to focus on exactly what the child needs to be successful. It also allows therapists to set up clear expectations for your child. It is fairly common that children who are lower functioning or younger in age start with a more structured DTT, then transition to a more naturalistic teaching method, such as Natural the Environment Training (NET).


Natural Environment Training (NET)

This method is all about learning in a naturalistic environment. Unlike DTT, NET is solely focused on learning through play or learning through your child’s daily activities. These teaching opportunities can be established in all different kinds of settings, not just a table in the therapy room. Opportunities for teaching can take place in the grocery store, the bank, or even while eating lunch. This method implements teaching opportunities while the child continues to play, without realizing any teaching is going on. Parents love NET too, because it is so easy for them to implement with their own children. This type of teaching is much less structured than DTT, therefore parents are able to find natural moments within their day to strengthen skills with their child. 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 is a more relaxed approach. DTT is a method used mainly in therapy, while NET is easier for the parents or teachers to use at home or in school with the child. Although there are differences between these teaching methods, there are benefits to both.


If you have further questions or concerns regarding what method might be best for your child, please do not hesitate to reach out by clicking on the purple button below or calling (773) 630-4400. Chicago ABA Therapy is here to help you and your child!