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Early Childhood Specialized Academic Class » Teaching Methods

Teaching Methods

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Discrete Trial Teaching (also referred to as DTT, “traditional ABA” or the Lovaas Model, for its pioneer, Dr. Ivar Lovaas). DTT involves teaching individual skills one at a time using several repeated teaching trials and reinforcers that may or may not be intrinsically related to the skill that is being taught.

Verbal Behavior Intervention

Verbal Behavior uses Skinner’s analysis as a basis for teaching language and shaping behavior.Skinner theorized that all language could be grouped into a set of units, which he called operants. Each operant he identified serves a different function. He listed echoics, mands, tacts and intraverbals as the most important of these operants. The function of a “mand” is to request or obtain what is wanted. For example, the child learns to say the  word “cookie” when he is interested in obtaining a cookie. When the child is given the cookie, the word is reinforced and will be used again in the same context. In a VB program, the child is taught to ask for the cookie any way he can (vocally, sign language, etc.). If the child can echo the work, he will be motivated to do so in order to obtain the desired object. The operant for labeling an object is called a “tact.” For example, the child says the word “cookie” when seeing a picture and is thus labeling the item. In VB, more importance is placed on the mand than on the tact, theorizing that “using language” is different from “knowing language.” An “intraverbal” describes conversational or social, language. Intraverbals allow children to discuss something that isn’t present. For example, the child finishes the sentence, “I’m baking…” with the intraverbal fill-in “Cookies.” Intraverbals also include responses to questions from another person, usually answers to “wh-“questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why?). Intraverbals are strengthened with social reinforcement. VB is designed to motivate a child to learn language by developing a connection between a word and its value.

Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)

Structured Teaching is designed to capitalize on the relative strengths and preferences for processing information visually, while taking into account the recognized difficulties. Children with autism are assessed in order to identify emerging skills, and work then focuses on these skills to enhance them. In Structured Teaching, an individualized plan is developed for each student. The plan creates a highly structured environment to help the individual map out activities. The physical and social environment is organized using visual supports so that the child can more easily predict and understand daily activities and as a result, respond in appropriate ways. Visual supports are also used to make individual tasks understandable.

Speech Language Therapy

Speech-Language Therapy (SLT) encompasses a variety of techniques and addresses a range of challenges for children with autism. For instance, some individuals with autism are unable to speak. Others seem to love to talk. They may have difficulty understanding information, or they may struggle to express themselves. SLT is designed to coordinate the mechanics of speech and the meaning and social value of language. An SLT program begins with an individual evaluation by a speech-language pathologist. The therapy may then be conducted one-on-one, in a small group, or in a classroom setting. The therapy may have different goals for different children. Depending on the verbal aptitude of the individual, the goal might be to master spoken language or it might be to learn signs or gestures to communicate. In each case, the aim is to help the individual learn useful and functional communication.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapy (OT) brings together cognitive, physical and motor skills. The aim of OT is to enable the individual to gain independence and participate more fully in life. An occupational therapist will evaluate the child’s development as well as the psychological, social and environmental factors that may be involved. The therapist will then prepare strategies and tactics for learning key tasks to practice at home, in school, and other settings.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Physical Therapy (PT) is focused on any problems with movement that cause functional limitations. Children with autism frequently have challenges with motor skills such as sitting, walking, running or jumping. PT can address poor muscle tone, balance and coordination. A physical therapist will start by evaluating the developmental level and abilities of the child. Once they identify the individual’s challenges, the physical therapists design activities that target those areas.

Picture Exchange Communication System

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a learning system that allows children with little or no verbal ability to communicate using pictures. PECS can be used at home, in the classroom or in a variety of other settings. A therapist, teacher or parent helps the child to build a vocabulary, and to articulate desires, observations or feelings by using pictures consistently. The PECS program starts by teaching the child how to exchange a picture for an object. Eventually, the individual is shown how to distinguish between pictures and symbols and use them to form sentences. Although PECS is based on visual tools, verbal reinforcement is a major component, and verbal
communication is encouraged. Standard PECS pictures can be purchased as a part of a manual, or pictures can be gathered from photos, newspapers, magazines, or other books.