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Why Do We Run Natural Environment Goals

By Ashiee Best

Why do we run natural environment goals?

Natural environment goals, or a natural environment teaching (NET), describes the method of providing ABA therapy by using in real life situations as teaching moments. This method of teaching is often used for individuals on the spectrum to help them generalize skills and behaviors.

Why is NET important?

This method often helps with teaching generalization of skills! It can help with social skills, language, and even motor skills. During NET, the child is engaged in a preferred activity and because the activity is preferred, it doesn’t even feel like work! The child is more likely to stay engaged. Also with NET, the environment is already reinforcing so the child stays motivated.

What does NET look like?

An example of NET could be if a therapist (Tx) was working on self advocating with a client. Instead of saying "I want that", the client may just take it. The Tx would first teach the child how to advocate with people they are comfortable with (parents, siblings, therapist). After being comfortable with some self advocacy language, the Tx can practice the skill in a natural environment (like the playground).

The client is playing, but Tx noticed their client watching other children play with their toys. The Tx could prompt or guide the client to ask to have a turn. The client can get 1 of 2 reactions.

If the client just takes it, he won't get the reaction he wants, but if he gives the correct response, the kids allow the client to play with their toys. Both of these outcomes would be the natural consequence. Positive reinforcement; he gets to play with the toys, that feels good! Or punishment; the other children don't share or play with him. This is a step in generalization because this reinforcement would occur more often as the client begins to retain the skill and more like it. The client is being reinforced by their environment, not the therapist.

Another Example of this could be done in a classroom if you are teaching a client to tact (label) colors, this could be done while playing with paint. As the client continues to need more colors, the behavior technician could use that as an opportunity to get the client to label the colors they are reaching for before or as they are receiving them. The therapist can give extra reinforcement, but the client is naturally reinforced by receiving the color they want. The activity is fun, rewarding, and the client is still getting their therapy!

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