Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Mark W. Steege

Second Advisor

Rachel Brown

Third Advisor

Bruce Chemelski




Knowing how to read words that are relevant and important has the potential to help individuals with developmental disorders gain independence within both school and community settings. The current study compares the effectiveness of two teaching procedures targeting reading skills in children with developmental disorders. Discrete trial teaching (DTT) is a commonly used method of teaching multiple pre-academic and academic skills to individuals with developmental disorders. It involves a systematic presentation of stimuli, a teaching procedure, and delivery of reinforcement, and is often delivered in a mass trial format. Incidental or naturalistic teaching, on the other hand, takes place in less formal settings that individuals commonly find themselves in and utilizes functionally and naturally occurring reinforcers. While incidental teaching (IT) procedures have commonly been used for teaching vocal and verbal language skills in social settings, there is currently a dearth of evidence supporting the use of incidental teaching for reading instruction. The current study compared the effectiveness of discrete-trial and incidental instructional methods for sight word acquisition with children with developmental disorders. The two procedures resulted in three different response patterns across participants. Implications discussed include the role of functional assessment for academic instruction and its significance in best practices for academic instruction using a response to intervention model.