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J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2006 Dec;31(4):196-203.

Effects of embedded instruction versus discrete-trial training on self-injury, correct responding, and mood in a child with autism.

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The University of Tasmania, Australia.



Embedded instruction and discrete-trial training are both recommended for teaching children with autism, but there is little research available comparing the two. The present study compared embedded instruction with discrete-trial training for a 12-year-old boy with autism.


An initial functional analysis indicated that the boy's self-injury was maintained by escape from task demands. Instructional sessions to teach adaptive behaviours were conducted under two conditions: (i) during embedded instruction, learning trials were inserted into ongoing activities at a rate of approximately 1.5 per minute; (ii) during discrete-trial training, instructional opportunities were incorporated into structured sessions at a rate of 4 per minute. In both conditions, the system of least prompts was used to teach relevant target responses. Effects of the two teaching formats were evaluated using an ABABA design.


Higher rates of self-injury and fewer correct responses occurred during discrete-trial training. Mood ratings were also lower during discrete-trial training.


The results suggest that self-injury, correct responding, and mood may be sensitive to the type of instructional format. Although discrete-trial training can be highly effective, it may be preferable to start with embedded instruction when the child presents with self-injurious escape behaviour.

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