Clarification of a Common Misconception
It is not uncommon to hear the terms ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and DTT (Discrete Trial Training) used synonymously. They are not the same thing. We want you all to be able to communicate clearly and clarify concepts and interventions when you are talking to parents, team members, administration, even the person behind you in line at the grocery store.
ABA uses strategies based on the principles of learning theory. It is a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior. The approach is based on the theory that behavior can be shaped by understanding and altering the antecedent (what happens right before the behavior) and the consequence (what happens right after the behavior).
Many interventions fall under the umbrella of ABA therapy. DTT is only one of the many. Some of the Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs) identified by the National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder that are ABA strategies include Functional Behavior Assessment, Differential Reinforcement, Prompting, Antecedent-Based Interventions, and DTT.
Saying that ABA and DTT are the same thing is like saying a rectangle and a square are the same thing. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, just like all DTT is ABA, but not all ABA is DTT. In this analogy, ABA strategies are rectangles, with DTT being a type of ABA, like a square is a type of rectangle.
Some view ABA as the be-all and end-all for the education and treatment of people with autism, especially since the U.S. Surgeon General endorsed the program in his report on mental health (1999). However, there are evidence-based practices that are not under the ABA umbrella. These EBPs also meet the criteria to be identified as strategies we know produce successful outcomes. An effective, comprehensive program for a student with autism should look more like the picture above, full of squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles.
In the Autism Circuit program, we are covering each of the 27 EBPs and giving each equal time and attention. Some of the 27 are ABA strategies and some are not. They all work!
Satcher, D. (1999). Mental health: A report of the surgeon general. U.S. Public Health Service. Bethesda, MD.