7 Reasons Why Your Discrete Trials SUCK!-And What to Do About it!

Okay, maybe suck is a bit strong. But they do stink. You do have children unengaged and off task. As soon as you get him to sit, you realize you forgot a pen to document data. And as soon as you get up, your student decides to jump out of his seat too. It’s a constant struggle to get your student in his seat, settled down and ready to work. It’s an even bigger struggle to ensure that all materials are ready and to keep your student busy while you fill out data sheets.

So, what are you doing wrong?

1.       Bad Poker Face:

Don't smile when your student reaches for the correct answer, nor frown when they reach for the wrong one. Your autistic students are very perceptive. Be careful of your own facial movements. Your student wants to be successful and many times, they want to make you happy. By smiling when they choose the correct item, you are inadvertently altering the way your student responds.

2.       Poor Work Space Set-Up:

Forgetting to consider work space set-up is a definite way to fail at your trials. Make sure you think about the work space when conducting discrete trials. A work space for discrete trial training should consist of ample space for materials, binders, and data. The desk or table should be neat and clear of extraneous materials. You want to make sure you are ready for any behavior that may be thrown your way, but you should have all materials within an arm's reach. Anticipate the needs of your student. Have one that always dying of thirst? Be prepared with a water bottle, or be prepared to take a short break to the water fountain. Have a student in need of frequent fidget or movement breaks? Be prepared for the frequent breaks by having a fidget box or short break activity at the ready.

When it comes to a great discrete trial session, you cannot be over prepared. <<TWEET THIS!

3.       Keep an Eye on Your Hands!

Be careful of hand placement. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the pace of a discrete trial session that when you ask for an item, you just automatically place you hand out in front of that item. If you place your hand near the desired item you WILL alter your student's response. Be careful and watch what you do with your hands. Try to be neutral in your placement and get in the habit of always placing your hand right in the middle of your body to avoid any bias toward one item or another.

4.       Watch Your Tone of Voice:

This can be tricky. If you are practicing a trial session where the student must choose between one item or another try and be neutral in your tone of voice. If you say something in a high tone, your student is more likely to choose that item. Conversely, if you say something in a low tone, your student will be less likely to choose it. So watch and be wary of how you ask for the desired items.

5.       Change It Up!

Make sure to mix it up a bit. Be careful to not always present material in the same order every time. It can be easy when doing trials to just zip through and never really change it up. Once the student finishes up the trial, you may just put it away until the next session and never think twice about how every time the student goes through them, the same items are in the same order. Forgetting to mix things up is bad practice and will be the demise of true and accurate data for your discrete trials. Your student will learn your patterns and it will not be a true indication of what a student knows.

6.       Positional Bias:

Much like how your hand placement matters, many students display positional bias where they will consistently reach for items on the same side. Avoid always placing the correct item on the same side. Take some advice from number 5 and mix it up!

7.       All Eyes on You:

Students can be very perceptive especially during discrete trials. Avoid looking directly at the correct item, as your student may be swayed to choose that item. Practice looking at your out placed hand, the student or anything else neutral. 

Keep these 7 tips in mind, and you're bound to rock your DTT sessions!