Methods like Natural Environment Teaching (NET) offer alternatives to traditional educational methods and contexts.
In this blog, we’ll look at the following:
- What is Natural Environment Teaching (NET)?
- Incidental Teaching
- Natural Language Paradigm
- Pivotal Response Training
- Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
- How is NET beneficial to autistic children?
What is Natural Environment Teaching (NET)?
Natural Environment Teaching (NET) is a teaching method that uses the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). It places a child into a learning environment they’re familiar with and feel comfortable in. As the name suggests, NET uses a more organic approach to learning and teaches skills through play. As a teacher learns the child’s interests and preferences, they can identify toys, games, and activities to incorporate into lessons.
Despite misconceptions, ABA therapy doesn’t solely take place at a table. NET in ABA is meant to be a hands-on method of learning. The teacher will encourage activities that interact with the child’s environment. By incorporating everyday items into learning experiences, children will better absorb information by utilizing familiarity.
What are Examples of NET?
Incidental teaching targets communication skills in NET, particularly for children who already have language abilities. A teacher will enter into a child’s game or playtime and encourage conversation by asking questions about the toy or items.
A key piece of incidental teaching is using the objects the child already shows interest in rather than introducing new ones. This way, you join their play world while prompting them to converse through gestures, pictures, or speech.
Natural Language Paradigm
Unlike incidental teaching, the natural language paradigm is ideal for non-speaking children. Typically, the teacher will have the child pick one thing from a few different games, toys, or activities. They can ask the child to point at their preferred choice.
Once chosen, the teacher models how to play using the selected item. They’ll verbally name and describe it, encouraging the child to play with the item themself. Then, the teacher will remove the item and prompt the child to repeat the correct words to regain the item.
Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
PRT focuses on the behavioral areas that have the most significant impact on a child’s development. The teacher will base the program around learning and improving essential skills.
How Does PRT Work?
PRT works to decrease problematic behaviors through positive reinforcement. The teacher won’t respond negatively to undesired behaviors but will reward the child when they exhibit desired behaviors.
How Does PRT Benefit Autistic Children?
Autistic children may find specific behavioral and socialization skills more difficult to develop than atypical children. Because of this, PRT is an effective method to help an autistic child speed up the development of skills.
How Effective is PRT?
Research studies show that PRT is incredibly effective in building and improving behavioral skills. More than a dozen studies done by therapists have indicated a clear improvement in communication skills for autistic children.
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
ESDM was developed for young autistic children (ages 12 to 48 months). This type of NET utilizes play to develop developmental, language, and play skills. Like PRT, ESDM uses positive reinforcement to encourage different responses and to learn skills.
How is NET Beneficial to Autistic Children?
The targeted skills in NET models coincide with many developmental challenges in autistic children. Play therapy sessions in natural settings can promote learning in autistic children who thrive on structure, visual and hands-on learning, and positive reinforcement.
The benefits of natural environment teaching include alternative and personalized approaches to learning that can be done at the child’s pace. Overall, NET is proven effective for skill development in autistic children.