Why We Specialize in Natural Environment Training

Natural Environment Training (also know as Natural Environment Teaching or NET) connects therapy sessions to real-life experiences. Specializing in this technique has shown each of us at Helping Hands how it can transform lives.

Mixing this with Incidental Teaching, a similar method used throughout the normal day, helps generalize skills across play, daily routines and new experiences.

These forms of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy can help all ages and is usually linked with positive reinforcement. Research shows when children choose their activities or are more engaged, they are more likely to learn and generalize behaviors. 

How it works

Natural Environment Training recreates desired behaviors across various situations, helping individuals with things like: communicating more effectively, eating healthier food and building relationships with others. Therapy can take place anywhere one would normally visit throughout the day—home, school, playgrounds, sporting events, work, stores and restaurants. It can also be used to gradually make new or rare experiences more comfortable, like parties, movie theaters, travel and amusement parks.

For example, therapists can help kids recognize and say colors through play using their favorite toy cars, cartoon characters or animal books. Focussing on the unique personality and interests of each individual proves to be highly motivating for clients.

NET is loosely structured, keeping only needed toys in sight and removing distractions. This means, it’s also important to let children pick the toys to play-learn with, keeping attention at its highest possible place.

Even though the client or kid is the primary one choosing activities, the therapists is leading the path. Showing (not telling) what the expectations or rules (or modeling) can help make expectations clear, keeping the experience fun and playful, without stressing the rules.

Some ways we have used this technique are:

  • Playing hide, seek and say with toys or items kids love but need help saying and requesting in words
  • Learning words, numbers and colors using board games
  • Practicing safety while riding a bike or going for a walk
  • Understanding empathy when playing with bugs or small animals

There are many ways to incorporate NET while developing key skills, and the process is playful, keeps children’s attention and helps establish trust.

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