Natural Environment Teaching


“Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a set of principles that form the basis of many behavioral treatments.  ABA is based on the science of learning and behavior.”  These concepts can be applied anywhere by anyone including the classroom, in the community, and at home by the teacher or by a caregiver!


A lot of people view ABA therapy as a one-on-one session that is extremely structured and uses therapies such as Discrete Trial Training (DTT) to teach skills while sitting at a desk.  While this is effective in teaching skills to students there is also an ABA therapy called Natural Environment Teaching (NET) that is less-structured and allows the child’s interest to lead in teaching new skills. NET uses the natural environment which maximizes generalization and can be used to teach a wide range of skills.


NET involves teaching children in every situation and experience throughout the day.  For example, it is recess and skills acquisition is not being taught… but why can’t it?  Little Suzy runs to the swing and expects to be pushed automatically and the teacher uses this situation as an incidental teaching moment.  Suzy is motivated by the swing and the teacher can use this opportunity to teach language.  Instead of pushing Suzy without thought, Suzy can ask to be pushed.  Another example of using the natural environment to teach would simply be to model during play.  Create a ramp with books so that Tommy can roll his toy cars down.  Along with teaching independent play, this same setting can also be used to teach language.  Tommy can be prompted to say “Go” before rolling his car, etc.


The advantages of Natural Environment Teaching are endless.  Motivation comes quickly because the learning opportunity is created based on the child’s interest.  Reinforcement is built in.  The situation is based on the child’s natural environment.  Language is more typical because it is occurs in it’s natural context.  The risk of non-compliance is low.  The list goes on and on for reasons to incorporate NET at home and in the classroom.



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