Girl in classroom.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can cause developmental delays and affect a child’s ability to learn at the same pace as their peers. With applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, individuals with behavioral disorders, such as autism disorder, can focus on learning skills with methodologies suitable for their specific needs. ABA therapy applies the understanding and workings of individual behavior and applies them to real-life situations and natural environments.

There are many benefits to Direct Instruction in combination with ABA therapy. Direct Instruction is a fast-paced teaching style that provides clear directions, allowing children to respond quickly and affirm their learnings.

We will learn all about the use case, principles, and history of Direct Instruction, as well as more information about ABA therapy and learning challenges of children with autism disorder. First, let’s start by defining this method of instruction.

What is Direct Instruction?

Direct Instruction is a method of instruction that provides students with clear, faultless directions for academic learning. Direct Instruction’s curriculum revolves around a scripted teaching method to provide children with efficient and straightforward directions. Teachers are tasked with ensuring students master all skills and content on a given material before moving forward to more complex material.

Direct Instruction is a common form of teaching for younger or middle-school-aged children. This method of instruction is best for teaching foundational material such as spelling, reading, and mathematics.

The Principles of Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction is based on three main guiding principles: program design, instruction organization, and interaction. Systematically designed programs are designed so that students are incrementally exposed to new learning material. The presentations in each class are predetermined and divided into different exercises to learn many different aspects of the given subject material. Direct Instruction allows children to be taught in similar groups and not by grade level.

The interaction between student and teacher is an integral part of this method of instruction. With Direct Instruction, students respond either orally or in written format. When responding orally, teachers provide immediate confirmation of the answer or correct the student on any errors. This method of instruction allows students to master a variety of skills in a fast-paced environment.

How to Implement Direct Instruction

Educators can utilize the Direct Instruction teaching model by using a step-by-step approach. The first step is to introduce material at a base-level to allow students to establish and master the foundation of a given subject matter. New material should always be presented with clear instructions and a confirmation that the students understand using guided practice and repetition.

These steps will continue for each new subject matter that is introduced. Once the previous material has been completely mastered, only then can new material be introduced.

With Direct Instruction, teachers use feedback and correctives so that students will know immediately if their answers are correct or incorrect. In this case, students can quickly modify or correct their answers if needed. Once the material has been learned in a group setting, it may be practiced independently by the students. Teachers will use an evaluation or other final review to ensure the material is mastered before moving on to the next subject matter.

Child finger painting.

Direct Instruction vs. Indirect Instruction

We have established the methodology for Direct Instruction so let’s look at the opposing method of instruction: indirect instruction. In this type of learning, the teacher facilitates the tasks while students learn and work independently or within peer groups. Indirect instruction utilizes a student’s motivation to engage and investigate actively on their own. This method is more inductive in that it leads students to discover concepts rather than be told them directly, like in Direct Instruction.

There are different benefits to Direct Instruction and Indirect Instruction. For children with autism disorder, their individual needs will help to determine which teaching strategy is suitable.

Use Cases for Direct Instruction

This teaching style is used in combination with ABA therapy but in a classroom setting to provide an alternative learning environment for children with autism. This explicit teaching method provides direct, faultless instruction. It is best applied when a children’s skill set matches that type of learning or if the learning material is best learned linearly.

This type of instruction is not beneficial for all students or even all children with autism. Direct Instruction is beneficial in many different cases. Intending to accomplish more learning in less time, this method of instruction helps students fast-track material.

In the case of children with autism, developmental delays may have led them to fall behind academically. Once equipped with the right skills, Direct Instruction can assist students in catching up to their peers.

The History and Theories of Direct Instruction

The Direct Instruction teaching model was created by Zig Engelmann and his theories that children can learn faster if the material is presented in a way that is clear and direct. Engelmann claimed that Direct Instruction was most effective and efficient for children to succeed in a classroom environment and their natural environment.

Through various studies throughout the 1960s and 1970s, this theory was proven successful. Although this was not immediately recognized as a legitimate method of instruction, educational institutes began to adapt to their curriculum to align with the Direct Instruction model. Today, this model is commonly used and has grown famous as a teaching strategy for children with autism.

Learning Difficulties of Children with Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can severely affect a child’s social interaction and communication skills. This behavioral disorder results in delays and issues with learning and development, which can lead to significant issues in an academic setting. In ABA therapy, teaching methods such as Direct Instruction are used to motivate children and show them that they can achieve academic success with the right skills and methods of instruction.

Finding Support with ABA Therapy

Living with autism disorder can be very difficult, but you can lean on ABA therapy and professionals’ support to provide guidance. The social-communicative and other behavioral hurdles of autism disorder can significantly impact the individual’s stressors as well as their families. Understanding the link between autism and mindfulness can help to reduce these stressors. By practicing stress management and other skills learned in ABA therapy, you and your child can become more at ease with the daily tasks of living with an autism disorder.

With ABA therapy, you can intervene and work to correct learning and development delays caused by the autism disorder. With an individualized program, a therapist can work with your child to hone skills specific to their individual needs. Under various methods of instruction and teachings, your child can learn new skills, develop confidence, and manage their feelings and behaviors in ABA therapy in all environments, whether at school or at home.

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