Questions? 866-352-5010

ABA Therapy

What Is Natural Environment Teaching In ABA Therapy?

Have you ever tried learning something new by watching a video or following a written set of instructions? When it was time to put all that learning to work in a real-life environment, you may have found it to be totally different than anticipated.
The same concept holds true for children with autism spectrum disorder who are learning new social skills or behaviors through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. While learning skills or behaviors in a controlled environment can be a great way to form an initial understanding, those skills or learned behaviors may not always translate perfectly to a real-world setting.

What Is Natural Environment Teaching? 

As the name suggests, natural environment teaching (NET) takes place in a natural setting, such as a classroom or a store, when a more complex, less structured approach is required. This scientifically proven teaching method lets ABA practitioners use their surroundings to help children with autism understand, develop, and hone learned skills.

In a research paper written by Amy Mosier titled “Applied Behavior Analysis Techniques: Discrete Trial Training & Natural Environment Training,” Mosier explains why children with ASD receiving NET are able to verbally interact better with certain stimuli compared to other forms of ABA therapy.

“It is because NET is focused around play. Since NET is done in the child’s most natural setting, it is believed by many theorists that this environment is the most effective for facilitating skills crucial for communication and language development. Thus, this teaching method would naturally lead to the spontaneous production of those skills in that environment.”

What Are Some Examples of Natural Environment Teaching? 

What an ABA therapist can do with Natural Environment Teaching is only limited by their creativity. Often, NET will be used to help a child practice a specific skill set. For example, if the child is learning how to clean a window, then their therapist can bring them to different places that have windows ranging from a room in a house to the closed window of a car.

Mark W. Steege et al., in Applied Behavior Analysis: Beyond Discrete Trial Teaching, provides another example of Natural Environment Teaching that includes positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors.

“Consider a situation in which a preschooler is playing with blocks. The blocks are different colors, and each has a capitalized letter of the alphabet printed in large white letters. Taking advantage of the child’s attention to the blocks, the teacher verbally states: ‘Show me the blue block.’ The child responds by pointing to the blue block, and the teacher responds with social reinforcement (e.g., ‘Great job showing me the blue block’).

NET gives children with ASD a chance to practice things like learning to clean or recognizing the difference between colors in a slightly different process depending on the context, helping them gain confidence and the ability to truly understand what the target behavior is and how to adapt to a changing environment.

The Benefits of Natural Environment Teaching

Natural Environment Teaching can help children with autism in several ways.

  • NET can help children understand bigger concepts like sitting in a chair, sitting in different types of chairs, or learning to sit in a chair in different environments

  • It can help children with ASD learn and practice skills in multiple settings

  • Because NET is often initiated by a child, the child can focus on topics they are interested in, meaning they’re more likely to retain the skills or behaviors they’re practicing Discrete Trial Training Vs. Natural Environment Teaching 

Natural environment teaching means working in an environment that the child encounters in their everyday life or in a setting that the child prefers. When using this method, therapists can teach skills through play.

Unlike NET, Discrete Trial Training (DTT) works best in controlled environments, such as the child’s home or an autism treatment center. DTT breaks down an action into small, bite-sized pieces. While practicing DTT, ABA therapists use positive reinforcement to incentivize desired behaviors.

However, not all concepts or skills are linear or predictable. In fact, most situations are subject to a wide range of variables, so ABA therapists may want to consider utilizing both techniques during therapy. This is discussed further in Mark Sundberg and Jack Michael’s article “The Benefits of Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior for Children With Autism.”

Sundberg and Michael said, “Both teach receptive and expressive language, but NET is primarily based on mandatory training by using the child’s current EOs and delivering specific reinforcement, whereas DTT is primarily based on tact and receptive training with nonverbal and verbal stimuli and delivering nonspecific reinforcement. From a verbal behavior perspective, a more complete language repertoire would be acquired from a combination of DTT and NET procedures.”

Natural Environment Teaching at Applied ABC 

At Applied ABC, our ABA therapists understand that each child is on a personalized journey with autism. Our mental health professionals use a combination of Natural Environment Teaching, Discrete Trial Training, and other therapeutic techniques to help children with ASD thrive and live more independent lives.

If you want to see if ABA therapy services at Applied ABC are right for your child, fill out an autism therapy assessment form.

Sources Cited

Mossier, Amy. Applied Behavior Analysis Techniques: Discrete Trial Training & Natural Environment Training.

Steege, Mark, et al. Applied Behavior Analysis: Beyond Discrete Trial Teaching.

Sundberg Mark and Jack Michael. The Benefits of Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior for Children With Autism.

Other articles

ABA Therapy Basics

Examples Of ABA Therapy

How ABA Therapy Works At Applied ABC

Thank you for contacting us!

Thank you for referring!

temp content

temp content

temp content
temp content
temp content