About Bridges Program and ABA

Discrete Trial Training/Direct Instruction

Discrete trial is a behavioral approach that breaks learning down into small steps that build functional and academic skills. In Discrete Trial Training, small bits of information are presented systematically. Each step is taught by presenting a specific cue or instruction. Appropriate responses are reinforced immediately. As soon as a student has mastered a skill, that skill is practiced in a variety of settings.

  • Skills or routines are task analyzed and broken down into individual steps.
  • Individual steps or skills are taught one step at a time, or directly using a number of trials. Prompting is used to get a child started or gently guide appropriate responses.
  • Prompts are faded quickly to promote independence.
  • Each skill or step is required to be mastered before additional information is presented. Ongoing data collection is used to determine if a child has reached criteria or if they are experiencing learning problems.
  • Data provides an objective overall picture of progress.

Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Pivotal Response Training is a naturalistic behavioral intervention technique used to improve specific skills in the areas of language, play, and social skills. PRT teaches “pivotal” skills that have a broad effect by increasing motivation and the ability to respond to many cues. The basic structure of a PRT session involves:

  • Provision of motivating materials based on a child’s preferences.
  • The student indicates what materials he/she would like to work for.
  • The adult uses any child-initiated communication as an opportunity to prompt for more elaborate communication.
  • The child is presented with the desired item after the response.


Functional Routines

Many daily activities and targeted skills are taught within routines.  When skills are incorporated within routine activities, they can be systematically practiced throughout the day in a functional manner.  Using the targeted skills within the context of performing the routine enables the child to eventually rely on natural cues to maintain their behavior.  Functional routines within Bridges include:

  • Arrival and departure
  • Transition
  • Snack/lunch
  • Hygiene
  • School jobs

Structured Teaching

Structured Teaching provides visual framework or systems that help children to function more independently.  This method provides concrete and visual ways of presenting information, modifying, and structuring the environment.  The components of structured teaching include:

  • Physical structure/setting up the environment
  • Daily schedule
  • Work systems
  • Visual structure

Augmentative Communication

Augmentative Communication systems and Assistive Technology are used to provide a means of expressive communication while verbal language is developing.  The ABA program uses a variety of these tools to support the learning process. These include a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), picture choice boards and dedicated voice-activated devices to augment expressive communication.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System is an augmentative communication picture/symbol system.  PECS program focuses on teaching child-initiated communication.  The pragmatic communication skills taught using this approach are requesting and commenting.

  • The student approaches a communication partner.
  • The student gives or exchanges a picture of the desired item with his or her communication partner.
  • The communication partner gives the student the item he/she requested.


The ABA program includes students with their typical peers in the regular classroom setting or in planned social experiences.  Students participate in the areas of the regular curriculum where they can be most successful.  As students gain more skills and are successful in the classroom, participation is gradually increased.