Community Helpers & Professionals: A systematic teaching guide for acquisition (ideas and -freebies)

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Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) is an instructional procedure designed to improve the developmental and educational outcomes of children with developmental delays and learning differences. It is a vital component to any special education early intervention program. DTT is a highly validated procedure and has been used to help children with a vast range of medical diagnosis. A wide range of skills including language, imitation, communication, play skills, and social/emotional skills.

DTT differs from other teaching methodologies due to its focus on systematic trials, number of trials, speed of repetition, degree of structure, inclusion of discrimination trials and the connection between task and reinforcement. Discrimination training is one of the most important elements of DTT. Discrimination training deals with the way in which training stimuli and prompts are presented as well as how prompts are faded and removed. There are many different evidence-based discrimination training strategies available to promote learning. See my blog post on discrimination trials. (Click image to go to post.)

The following protocol outlines a systematic way of introducing (utilizing a DTT or Errorless Learning methodology) and teaching professionals and community helpers. I always enjoy introducing this theme and topic because there are so many FUN things you can do with them!!!

Step 1: Receptively Identifying

SD:       “Touch the ___.”

            “Give me the ___.”

            “Show me the ___.”

            “Where is the ___?”

Example: “Where is the pilot?”

SR:       The child will give or touch the correct photo.

Example: The child touches, points to or gives the photo of the pilot.

Prompt: Physical (Hand Over Hand), Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer to the child), Gesture (Point to or Tap the correct answer)

Note: It is important to have multiple photos of one target.  For example, when introducing, you may present a photo of a pilot in the cockpit of the airplane. Then, a pilot standing next to an airplane or a pilot standing in the airport.

Use the following downloadable FREEBIE to practice matching and receptive skills.

(Clipart purchased from Little Red’s School House)

Field Size: This depends on the child.  Typically, you would start with three items on the table and gradually increase to ten items.  Some children require starting with one item on the table and increasing the field size by one, after two or three, correct responses (start with one and gradually increase to the typical starting field size of three within two to three correct responses).  Continually change the cards and location on the table.  


Step 2: Expressively Identifying (Tacting)

SD:       “Who is it?”

            “Tell me who this is?”

Example: “Who is it?” (while holding up a photo a nurse)

SR:       The child responds in single word responses or short phrases depending on verbal abilities.

Example: “Nurse, Or “That’s a nurse.” Or “It’s a nurse.” Or “A nurse.”

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer)

Step 3: Job Descriptions 

SD:       “Who would _____?”

            “Tell me the person that would ____?”

            “Name someone that would ___?”

Example: “Who would help sick people?”

SR:       The child responds with the correct person.

Example: “A doctor would help sick people.” Or “A doctor.” Or “Doctor”

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer), Visual (Show the child a visual representation of the answer such as a photo or written word)

General Target Examples:

Professional : Job Descriptions

Acrobat: walks a tightrope, performs at a circus

Baker: bakes bread, makes gourmet cakes and pies, works in a bakery

Astronaut: goes to space, flies a space shuttle, works for NASA, walks on the moon

Ballerina: takes dance lessons, wears a leotard, wears ballet shoes, wears a tutu

Bank teller: cashes a check at the bank

Bricklayer: lays bricks, bricks houses, uses mortar and cement

Bus Driver: drives a school bus            

Butcher: cuts meats, works in a butcher shop

Car Salesman: sales cars, works at a dealership

Cheerleader: uses pom-poms, has team spirit, uses a megaphone to cheer, cheers at football games

Chef: cooks food at a restaurant, uses recipes, uses ingredients to prepare entrees

Chemist: mixes chemicals

Clothing designer: designs clothing

Conductor: drives a train

Construction worker: build houses

Cowboy: wears cowboy hats, wears boots, rides horses

Dentist: cleans your teeth, fills cavities, gives you toothbrushes and toothpaste

Doctor: helps sick people, gives medicine to sick people, uses a stethoscope

Farmer: grows food, harvests food, drives a tractor on a farm, mows the field, bails hay

Firefighter: puts out fires drives a fire truck, wears a fire hat, saves people from fires

Flight attendant: serves food and drinks on an airplane, check seatbelts on an airplane

Football player: wears pads and helmet, plays football, throws a football, makes a touchdown

Garbage man: picks up the trash, drives the garbage truck

Golfer: drives a golf cart, putts on the green, use golf clubs

Hairstylist: uses scissors to cut hair, styles hair

Librarian: organizes books, reads books to children, allows you to check out books

Lifeguard: keeps you safe while you swim, saves people when they are drowning

Maid: uses a vacuum cleaner to clean the floor, uses cleaning supplies to clean the house

Musician:  plays an instrument, reads music

Pilot: flies an airplane                  

Police officer: helps you when you are lost, writes speeding tickets, drives a police car, wears a badge

Soccer Player: kicks a soccer ball, has a soccer coach, plays in tournaments

Teacher: teaches children at school, grades papers, works at a school,

Step 4: Reverse Job Descriptions    

SD:       “What does a ____ do?”

            “Tell me what a  ____ would do?”

            “Name something that a  ___ would do?”

Example: “What does a teacher do?”

SR:       The child responds with the correct person.

Example: “A teacher grades papers.” Or “Grades papers” or “Works at a school”…

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer), Visual (Show the child a visual representation of the answer such as a photo or written word)

Step 5: Who would need …?

SD:       “Who would need a ___ to do his/her job?”

“Tell me someone who would need a ___ to do his/her job?”

 “Name someone that would need a  ___ to do his/her job?”

SR: The child responds with the correct person.

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer), Visual (Show the child a visual representation of the answer such as a photo or written word)

Target Examples:

Professional : Tools needed

Astronaut : space shuttle, space helmet, space suit

Baker : oven

Ballerina : ballet shoes

Bus Driver : school bus

Cheerleader : pom-poms, megaphone

Chef  : frying pan, pot, spatula, stove

Construction worker :  hammer, hard hat, tool belt

Dentist  :  dental chair, dental tools, mirror

Doctor  :  exam table, band-aide, medicine, medicine bag, stethoscope, syrige

Farmer  :  tractor, wheelbarrow, seed

Firefighter :  hose, ladder, fire truck, ax, fire hat

Garbage man  :   garbage truck, garbage can

Golfer   :  tee, golf ball, golf club

Hairstylist  :  comb, brush, scissors

Maid  :   vacuum cleaner

Musician :  instrument, music

Painter  :  paint, paint brush, roller, paint stick

Photographer :  camera

Pilot  :  airplane, suitcase

Police officer :  police car

Teacher  :  chalkboard, classroom

Step 6: Reverse Who would need?

SD:       “Tell me something a ___ would need to do his/her job?”

            “What would a ___ need to do his/her job?”

SR:       The child responds with a tool.

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer), Visual (Show the child a visual representation of the answer such as a photo or written word)

Step 7: Who would say?

SD:       “Who would say _?”

            “Who might say _?”

SR:       The child will name a professional/community helper.

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer), Visual (Show the child a visual representation of the answer such as a photo or written word)

Target Examples:

Professionals  : Would Say…

Acrobat  : “I hope I don’t fall from the tightrope!”, “What time is the performance?”

Astronaut  :  “Ready for take off.”, “All systems are go.”

Baker  :  “I will use yeast as an ingredient.”, “I baked the chocolate cake today.”

Ballerina  :  “My feet are sore from ballet class.”, “I lost my ballet shoe.”

Bank Teller :  “Please sign the back of the check.”, “What is your account number?”

Butcher  :  “How would you like the roast beef sliced?”

Car Salesman   :  “What type of automobile are you looking for?”

Cheerleader  : “I need my red pom-poms for Friday nights football game.”

Chef : “I love to cook.”

Construction Worker :  “My tool belt is missing.”

Dentist  : “Brush your teeth or you will get cavities.”

Doctor  :  “I’ll make you feel better and give you some medicine.”

Firefighter :  “Don’t play with matches.”

Garbage man :  “I will pick up your garbage every Tuesday morning.”

Golfer  :  “I hit the golf ball on the green in one stroke.”

Librarian :  “This library book is due back in one week.”

Lifeguard : “Do not jump from the side of the pool.”, “Do not run around the pool.”

Nurse : “I need to take your temperature.”

Photographer : “Smile for the camera.”, “Say cheese!”

Pilot  :   “Please keep your seatbelt fastened during takeoff.”

Surfer :  “I’m going surfing in the morning before the storm.”

Teacher : “Raise your hand if you know the answer.”

Waitress  : “May I take your order?”

Step 8: Reverse Who would say?

SD:       “What would a _ say?”

            “Tell me something a _ might say?”

SR:       The student will identify a phrase or sentence the professional/community helper might say.

Prompt: Verbal (Verbally announce the correct answer), Visual (Show the child a visual representation of the answer such as a photo or written word)


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About Post Author

The Speech Banana

My unique level of skill sets and eighteen years of working across the lifespan include working as an in-home ABA therapist (under the direction of elite Behavior Analysts), later as a Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst  (known as Assistant Behavior Analyst, today) and ASHA licensed Speech-Language Pathologist.  I possess an extensive level of post-graduate training and enjoy research collaboration.  Over my professional career, I have had the opportunity to provide professional therapy services in hospitals, in-patient/out-patient rehabilitation centers, schools, skilled nursing facilities, academic learning centers and private practice. I have successfully coordinated and organized interventions for the most difficult caseloads and executed professional training programs for many educational and health-related institutions. An accomplished clinician, I possess knowledge and skills in all aspects of managing screenings, evaluation and treatment design. I have extensive knowledge and experience with individuals who exhibit complex communication profiles and problematic behavioral characteristics requiring alternative means of communication, feeding/swallowing interventions, specific behavioral intervention plans, and specialized executive function interventions.  My clinical competencies include knowledge and skills in the specialty interventions including:  The Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis, Errorless Learning, Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT),  Natural Environment Teaching (NET), Verbal Behavior Analysis/Mand Training, Family-Guided Routines-Based Intervention Floortime/DIR, Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Integrated Play Groups Model, Wilson Reading System, Orton-Gillingham, Language!, Lindamood-Bell, Auditory Integration Therapy, Earobics,  Integrated Play Therapy,  PROMPT, Tomatis Method, Neurofeedback and Biofeedback Interventions, TEACCH,  Assistive Technology, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), SuperFlex Social Skills Instruction, Beckman Oral Motor, Sensory Integration Techniques, and many more.
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