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Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Discrete trial training (DTT) is a one-to-one instructional approach used to teach skills in a planned, controlled, and systematic manner. DTT is used when a learner needs to learn a skill best taught in small, repeated steps. In addition, DTT is often characterized by repeated, or massed, trials that have a definite beginning and end.


Each trial or teaching opportunity has a definite beginning and end, thus the “discrete trial” descriptor. Within DTT, the use of antecedents and consequences is carefully planned and implemented. The instructional trial begins when the adult presents a clear direction or stimulus, which elicits a target behavior. Positive praise and/or tangible rewards are used to reinforce desired skills or target behaviors. Data collection is an important part of DTT and supports decision making by providing teachers/practitioners with information about beginning skill level, progress and challenges, skill acquisition and maintenance, and generalization of learned skills or behaviors. Other practices that are used in DTT include task analysis, prompting, time delay, and reinforcement.

DTT meets evidence-based criteria with 13 single-case design studies. According to the evidence-based studies, this intervention has been effective for preschoolers (3–5 years) to elementary school-age learners (6–11 years) with ASD. DTT can be used effectively to address social, communication, behavior, joint attention, school-readiness, academic, adaptive, and vocational skills.

Brief Adapted from

Bogin, J. (2008). Overview of discrete trial training . Sacramento, CA: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, M.I.N.D. Institute, The University of California at Davis Medical School.

Fleury, V. P. (2013). Discrete trial teaching (DTT) fact sheet. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Research Summary

Ages (yrs) Skills Settings Outcome
2 years 9 months–11 years* Behavior School and Community
*The information found in the Research Summary table is updated yearly following a literature review of new research and this age range reflects information from this review.

Outcomes:     Evidence-based     Emerging     No evidence     Comprehensive

Steps for Implementation


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