Children hula hooping in a park.

There are different teaching methods under the Applied Behavior Analysis umbrella, including natural environment teaching. This type of teaching aims to take the aspects of behaviors taught in therapy and apply them to a real-life setting. Exposing individuals to this type of teaching method can put their skills to use in a practical way that lets them be the driving force of their behaviors.

With a new season comes new opportunities to embrace ABA therapy outside of your therapist’s office. The natural environment exposes children to different things not found indoors and offers a plethora of seasonal activities.

Natural Environment Teaching in ABA Therapy

The goal of ABA therapy is to help individuals with behavioral disorders learn generalized skills. Natural environment teaching benefits children with autism by providing an environment that more closely mimics their interactions outside of a formal therapy session. This teaching method is beneficial for children with autism to practice social skills, language skills, generalized skills, and other skills used to improve behaviors.

Natural environment teaching is just one method used in ABA therapy to assist with behavioral development delays and behavioral disorders, like autism disorder. Seeking ABA therapy early on is critical to intercepting any developmental delays.

The Foundation of Natural Environment Teaching

The framework of natural environment teaching is structured to encourage and motivate individuals to carry out actions and behaviors as they might in their personal lives. It encourages them to keep integrating skills learned in ABA therapy at the forefront. Before introducing natural environment teaching, Discreet Trial Training (DTT) is used in the classroom. DTT uses a two-dimensional approach to teaching behaviors, while natural environment teaching takes those same principles to a broader, real-world setting.

This broader approach is centered on the child’s current interest, encouraging them to have better attention and motivation for a given task. For example, an ABA therapist may follow the child’s lead and interest in going for a walk outside. A child may learn the color pink through flashcard learning, but in natural environment therapy, an ABA therapist may give the child a choice of three colors and ask them to find an object with that color.

Kids playing on a trampoline.

Spring Activities for Natural Environment Teaching

Being in an outdoor environment where children can engage with other people under the guidance of an ABA therapist and family will give cues of their progressing social skills. There are many different activities that the warm, welcoming spring season lends for natural environment teaching, whether in your backyard, a park, or another kid-friendly outdoor environment. Some examples of practical skills taught in natural environment teaching include labeling, requesting, social engagement, and non-vocal imitation.

Labeling is an aspect of ABA therapy that encourages children to describe certain people, places, or things. This practice can be adapted to natural environment teaching using outdoor objects that children will want to engage in, such as a swing set or other playground activities. Once the child has labeled the object correctly, they are rewarded with using or playing with that object. Working on requesting in an outdoor spring environment could involve using sensory toys like a water table but only giving a child one toy upon a successful request.

Engaging in conversation in a natural environment allows conversation with a child to flow more naturally. Using the context of the child’s surroundings to drive the discussion, you can encourage social engagement. Casual conversation, those surrounding an activity, or other verbal reinforcement and affirmation promotes the child to work on their social skills.

If a child is not proactively engaging in conversation, you may opt to use non-vocal imitation as an engagement tool. A fun, outdoor-friendly activity can be as simple as playing a non-verbal game of Simon Says. In this version, you will use only gestures and body movements, with the goal of the child actively following along after each new move.

Natural environment teaching in ABA therapy helps encourage positive behavior and communication. By learning and building their confidence in natural environment teaching, children will be better off with their real-world interactions.

Dealing with the Stressors of Behavioral Disorders

Autism disorder is taxing for both individuals and their families. By understanding the link between autism and mindfulness, you can effectively manage what could otherwise be a stressful reality. When the stressors are lessened, the child can be better focused on learning new and appropriate behaviors from ABA therapy techniques, whether they are taught inside or outside the classroom.

If you seek ABA therapy services on behalf of your child, the licensed therapists at Blossom Children’s Center cater to individuals with autism disorder and other behavioral concerns.

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