Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Using Discrete Trial Teaching within a Public Preschool Program to Facilitate Skill Development in Students with Developmental Disabilities

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Using Discrete Trial Teaching within a Public Preschool Program to Facilitate Skill Development in Students with Developmental Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract

There is a great need to identify specific instructional methods that effectively promote positive skill development in young children with developmental disabilities. One method that has received strong empirical support with children with autism is Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT); however, the effectiveness of DTT has not been extensively evaluated with children who have developmental disabilities other than autism. This project was an initial investigation evaluating the practicality and effectiveness of providing DTT instruction to children with a wide range of developmental disabilities within an existing public preschool program. Participants were randomly assigned to receive DTT or individual attention in a control condition. The project evaluated the effects of providing DTT on the participants' cognitive, language, behavioral, and social-emotional functioning. Results generally indicated positive changes in adaptive behavior development and social-emotional functioning for students who received DTT. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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For the past three decades educators and researchers have sought to identify methods that positively impact the developmental and future educational outcomes of young children with developmental disabilities. In order to summarize the knowledge gained through those efforts the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) conducted a federally funded review of the relevant research literature (B. J. Smith et al., 2002). Based on their review, the DEC generated and published the DEC Recommended Practices in early intervention/early childhood special education (EI/ECSE) for assessment; child-focused interventions; family-based practices interdisciplinary models; technology applications; personnel preparation; and policies, procedures, and systems change (Sandall, McLean, & Smith, 2000).

The DEC Recommended Practices for child-focused interventions provide educators with general teaching guidelines based on practices that have shown evidence of effectiveness in EI/ECSE. For example, the current guidelines recommend that a variety of instructional procedures such as incidental teaching, mand-model procedure, naturalistic time delay, peer-mediated strategies, prompting and prompt fading be implemented within and across students' activities "with sufficient fidelity, consistency, frequency and intensity" (Sandall, Hemmeter, Smith, & McLean, 2005, p. 92). Despite these guidelines, research indicates that EI/ECSE educators, including many paraprofessionals, may experience difficulty taking the DEC recommendations and implementing them in the classroom as effective instructional practices. This is due in part to the fact that the majority of preschool educators have little to no formal training in instructional methods that can be used with young children who have disabilities (Bricker, 1995; Schepis, Reid, Ownbey, & Parsons, 2001). Complicating matters further, there remains a lack of consensus among professionals regarding the best way to provide instruction to children with developmental disabilities in EI/ECSE settings. For example, some researchers advocate child-directed and embedded-teaching approaches (Greenspan & Wieder, 1999; Schepis et al., 2001), while others emphasize the importance of using teacher-directed instruction (Engelmann & Osborn, 1970; Green, 1996; Lovaas, 1987, 2003), especially when teaching new skills (Losardo & Bricker, 1994; T. Smith, 2001). Another complication is the striking diversity one finds when examining the population of children who receive EI/ECSE services, which suggests that instructional practices that are effective with any given student may not be effective with others. As a result of the philosophical differences, student diversity, and training issues, developmental and educational outcomes for many children who have disabilities may be less than optimal dependent on the empirical and philosophical rule sets that determine the curricular and instructional decisions of EI/ECSE educators. …

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