2000). The Douglass Center’s treatment continuum moves children from discrete-trial instruction to eventual placement in a classroom that uses mostly natural contexts teaching formats (Harris et al., 2000).
The trend toward use of naturalistic teaching procedures began as an attempt to improve generalization of skills to use in everyday life. Procedural comparisons of discrete-trial instruction and incidental teaching have indicated that, given comparable reinforcement procedures, acquisition occurs at approximately the same pace for both of the procedures (McGee et al., 1985). However, generalization or transfer of skills from the teaching setting to unprompted use in new settings or with new people is enhanced when skills have been learned through incidental teaching. Incidental teaching is a systematic protocol of instruction derived from principles of behavior analysis, and haphazard or unplanned instruction of any type is unlikely to produce acquisition in children with autism (McGee et al., 1999).
A method called structured teaching is used at TEACCH (Marcus et al., 2000). Structured teaching shares features common to discrete-trial instructional procedures but also emphasizes instructional formats derived from the developmental literature and psycholinguistics, as well as some incidental teaching (Watson et al., 1989). The focus is on environmental structure, visual schedules, routines, organizational strategies (e.g., working from left to right), and visual work systems that help a child achieve independence in various skills. With respect to reinforcement, the TEACCH model works from the idea that task performance and task completion will be motivating for children if they understand a task that is at an appropriate developmental level (e.g., supporting the development of emerging skills) and that builds on individual interests. The TEACCH structured teaching approach focuses on helping parents and teachers adapt the environment while helping children to develop skills.
The two developmental programs use somewhat different approaches, although both are delivered during play interactions between adults and children. The technical foundation for the Denver Model and the Developmental Intervention Model differ significantly from the behavioral approaches, yet each involves teaching in natural contexts. Meaningful differences, however, tend to center on the role of reinforcement in the instructional process. The use of discrimination training techniques is most common in both discrete-trial and incidental teaching procedures.
All ten programs give explicit attention to the importance of individualizing treatment; their methods vary. In general, the procedural