Join CafeMom Today! Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treatments: NATURAL ENVIRONMENT TRAINING (NET)

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Friday, October 17, 2008

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT TRAINING (NET)

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT TRAINING

Sundberg & Partington (1998) have outlined an educational program based on the principles of Verbal Behavior. Skinner's (1957) classifications of verbal behavior have tremendous curricular implications for individuals with autism. Autism involves deficits in many of the areas outlined by Skinner. The deficit in manding may be the most obvious and longstanding. Most students with autism present with significant deficits in spontaneity. Even with intervention, these deficits also persist. Sundberg & Partington's emphasis on mand training, in particular, adds a unique and extremely important focus for students with autism.

Sundberg & Partington have developed the method of Natural Environment Training (NET). This model capitalizes on establishing operations to build spontaneity. Specifically, the instructor assesses what the learner is motivated by at that particular moment in time. The instructor targets requesting (manding) as the initial skill. The learner's skills in requesting are built through the constant processes of capturing and contriving establishing operations. The learner's spontaneous mands are counted and increased. The instructor serves as an agent of reinforcement, which builds rapport. Gradually, demands are faded into the instructional context and small delays in the receipt of desired items are implemented. In this way, the instructional context begins to include instructor demands as well as learner requests.

Natural Environment Training is similar to the Natural Language Paradigm (NLP) and to Pivotal Response Training, which both emphasized the use of intrinsically motivating materials, teaching in natural contexts, and focusing on the child's immediate interests to guide language instruction (Koegel, O'Dell, & Koegel, 1987; Laski, Charlop, & Schreibman, 1988). NLP, as described by Koegel, Koegel, & Surrat (1992) involves items chosen by the child, variations in instructional targets every few trials, loose shaping contingencies, natural reinforcers, and playful interactions. NET is usually conducted in the child's typical daily environment (Sundberg & Partington, 1999). Sundberg and Partington have used the context of Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior to analyze the utility of both DTT and NET in instructing children with autism, and have created an instructional model based on this analysis.

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