Pivotal response therapy (PRT) is an empirically supported comprehensive behavioral treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that focuses on pivotal areas of a person’s development, rather than treating individual behaviors one at a time. First developed in the 1970s, PRT is now widely used as an intervention treatment for children with ASD and related disorders. Here are the answers to some common questions parents have about PRT.
What does pivotal response therapy target?
PRT is intended to address pivotal areas of development, including a child’s motivation, responses to multiple cues, the child monitoring his/her own behavior, and the ability to initiate interactions with other people. By targeting these important areas, PRT results in improvements in other social, communicative, and behavioral areas that are not specifically targeted. PRT utilizes motivational strategies to increase child engagement in learning such as child choice, task variation, interspersing already learned tasks with new tasks, reinforcing the child for reasonable attempts, and using direct and natural reinforcers. With PRT the child plays an essential role in determining the activities and objects that will be used in treatment. The goal of the therapy is to utilize motivational strategies to engage the child in learning and provide positive reinforcement to increase skill development.
Who can provide pivotal response therapy?
PRT can be provided to a child by a number of different specialists, including behavior analysts, behavior technicians under the direction of a behavior analyst, psychologists, teachers, instructional assistants, and speech and language therapists. Because PRT is a naturalistic intervention, meaning it is done in the child’s natural environment, parents themselves can also learn to apply PRT within their family’s everyday routine. Parents can create learning opportunities at home that will help to reinforce the skill development that is being taught during therapy sessions.
Is pivotal response therapy right for my child?
Every child’s needs are different, so an individualized approach should be taken to providing treatment to any child who has ASD. However, it’s possible that PRT could be an effective therapy for your child. PRT has proven to be especially helpful in encouraging children to develop stronger social and verbal communication skills. Additionally, it’s been shown to be effective in teaching play and academic skills and decreasing disruptive/self-stimulatory behaviors.