NET planning

Natural Environment Teaching (NET) is an important part of any good effective ABA programme. A lot of our learners struggle to learn incidentally from the environment, so we often need to use contrived methods of teaching particular skills. As a practitioner, finding ways to teach skills can be challenging; considering the targets, the child’s motivation and embedding these into a naturalistic way can be difficult.

Teaching with Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) allows multiple trials of practicing skills and reviewing mastery, which NET does not allow. However, DTT sometimes can be inefficient at supporting generalisation to various settings, people or exemplars/stimuli (Welch & Pear, 1980). Teaching incidentally in the natural environment can be successful as motivation is higher (Hart & Risley, 1968; Hart & Risley, 1975). It also can be difficult to teach some skills with DTT, for instance, teaching individuals self-help skills, and to seek help when lost (Bergstrom, Najdowski & Tarbox, 2012).

When I was at college I did a Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education – this qualifies you to become a nursery nurse, or teaching assistant. This course was very valuable in preparing me for working in education, and one of the important lessons I learned was for planning. In this course/role, you need to take consideration of the Early Years Foundation Stage which covers skills under various categories (for example, physical development, and understanding the world). When planning you have demonstrate how the activity will help support skills under these various different categories and how it will be expanded to include these. I have used this knowledge and approach to planning to help me plan and develop NETs when working with learners.

Below is an example of a plan I use to support learners and also for parents and tutors.

To design my NET, I consider the activity I will use, and how I can incorporate the various skills I want to embed. These can be targets that are mastered and within maintenance, or skills that are on target. Here is an example below of a plan for train set.

Using this format you can ensure that all skills are targeted and also allows for some adaptations each time. With the example below targets can include a variety of requests, receptive understanding and tacting and academic skills across many concepts, colours, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs, etc.. Also, you could focus on expanding imaginative play and also by embedding a treasure hunt into the activity.

The more the skill of planning is practiced, the more fluent the skill is, and the easier it becomes to approach an activity and consider the many possibilities, across a variety of learners. If you want to give it a go, it would be great to hear your feedback about using the form! You can contact me directly via email, through the contact form or leave a comment below! I am happy to discuss any activity plans you have put together (you can use the download link below pictures to get a copy of the blank or example plan).

I have previously shared many activities ideas through the newsletter and in the blog. The previous editions of the newsletter each include an activity plan which references the VB MAPP goals. I also shared activities in the blog post: Stay at home: NET Edition, or Expanding Bubble Activity blog for more ideas!


Bergstrom, R., Najdowsky, A. C., & Tarbox, J. (2012). Teaching children with Autism to seek help when lost in public. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(1), 191-195.

Hart, B. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Establishing use of descriptive adjectives in the spontaneous speech of disadvantaged preschool children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(2), 109-120.

Hart, B. M., & Risley, T. R. (1975). Incidental teaching of language in preschool. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 8(4), 411-420.
McGee, G. G., Krantz, P. J., Mason, D., & McClannahan, L. E. (1983). A modified incidental-teaching procedure for autistic youth: acquisition and generalisation of receptive object labels. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 16(3), 329-338.
Rosales-Ruiz, J., & Baer, D. M.(1997) Behavioral cusps: A developmental and pragmatic concept for behaviour analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30(3), 533-544.
Welch, S. J. & Pear, J. J. (1980). Generalisation of naming responses to objects in the natural environment as a function of training stimulus modality with retarded children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 13(4), 629-643.

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