Natural Environment Teaching for Autism
Natural Environment Training are instructions that are both driven by the individual’s motivation and carried out in the environments that closely resemble natural environments, while being highly structured with regard to the individual’s access to reinforcement. Natural environment teaching leads to an individual being able to learn skills in one environment and generalize them to other environments. NET leads to skills acquisition gained in 1:1 therapy being utilized outside of therapy. The curriculum focuses on an individual’s specific needs and embeds them within his/her interests. Characteristics of NET also include capturing motivation (EO/MO) pairing, errorless learning, and using probe data as opposed to trial by trial data.
Capturing the motivation of the individual to teach new skills important throughout the therapy session to develop and maintain rapport with the individual. The idea is to capture a moment of high interest/motivation and use it to teach and generalize skills acquisition. NET can be used to teach new skills such as basic functional communication training to advanced language training and a wide variety of social important skills.
There are definitely opportunities to teach more and more complex behavior in the natural environment when motivation is captured appropriately. The key is to target or program in such a way that skills are being taught in the way the individual will most likely learn. If a skill is too advanced, it will most likely end in frustration. If the skill is too easy, the individual would not be learning new things.
In Natural Environment Teaching, instructional control is gained through pairing. A therapist/ABA provider identifies things in the individual’s environment that already serve as reinforcers. Then the provider lets the individual gain access to those reinforcers only through the provider. Over time, this procedure “pairs” the provider with reinforcing things and the provider him/herself becomes a conditioned reinforcer. Once the therapy provider is a reinforcer, the individual is more likely to want to be around/gain access to that therapist. Pairing is essential for teaching new skills because of the changes in environment that can occur at any given moment during therapy.