A decision that must be made is whether to use discrete trial training drills or incidental teaching to establish functional skills. Discrete trial training is conducted in a highly specified and structured manner, in which the instructor chooses and presents an antecedent stimulus related to the skill of interest, and when the student responds correctly, the response is reinforced. Naturalistic or incidental teaching is loosely structured, and is incorporated into a student’s ongoing routine and follows his or her interests. Variation in antecedent stimuli and respnses is emphasized and reinforcers for correct responses are tied to the student’s ongoing activites. Sundberg and Partington (1999) coined the term ‘natural environment
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Another key aspect of NET is that instruction occurs in the setting when he skill will naturally occur, not is a separate instructional setting. NET is child oriented, not instructor orientated. When using NET, the teacher strives to use naturally occurring opportunities but solely relying on situations as they present themselves can severely limit the number of learning opportunities available. Therefore, it is common to contrive situations. However this is always done within an activity for which the response would be considered natural and appropriate. Eg; is you are teaching a student to request ‘help’, you might purposefully place items out of reach, put lids on too tight, present broken materials, etc. So, unlike DTT, the instruction does not occur in isolation with many trials stacked together.
The teacher must be paired with positive reinforcement first. It is difficult to maintain instructional control in the natural environment but by ensuring that pairing is completed first, you can maintain that control in less structured environments as the child is interested in the teacher and will respond to him/her due to the history of pairing.
Several procedures have since been developed that occur in the natural environment, including time delay, pivotal response, and naturally language paradigm.
One of the demands on the teacher using incidental teaching is to identify relevant ‘teachable moments’. The task