What is Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) Within an ABA Treatment Plan?

Pivotal Response Treatment is a naturalistic intervention model derived from applied behavior analysis (ABA) approaches that is play based and child initiated. It may also be referred to as Pivotal Response Training, Pivotal Response Teaching, Pivotal Response Therapy, Pivotal Response Intervention and the Natural Language Paradigm.

Pivotal Response Treatment is a highly acclaimed, research-based treatment for individuals with autism. PRT has goals that include the development of communication, language, positive social behaviors and support from disruptive self-stimulatory behaviors. While utilizing PRT, the therapist targets fundamental areas of a child’s development. Fundamental areas may include motivation, response to multiple cues, self-management, and the initiation of social interactions. Targeting these areas should consequently also improve areas of sociability, communication, behavior, and academic skill building.

An important part of the PRT approach are motivation strategies which emphasize “natural” reinforcement. PRT is primarily used with preschool and elementary school learners, however, it may also help adolescents and young adults. While utilizing the Pivotal Response Treatment, all learners play a fundamental role in determining activities and objects that will be used in a PRT exchange.

PRT is used by a wide range of professionals, such as, psychologists, special education teachers, speech therapists, ABA therapists, and other providers. Each program is developed to meet the goals and needs of the individual learner and routines in place. As goals are met, more advanced goals and needs are put into place as necessary. A session typically involves six segments during which language, play, and social skills are targeted with both structured and unstructured interactions. PRT programs usually involve 25 or more hours per week for the learner as well as instruction for parents and other caregivers. For best results, everyone involved in the learner’s life are encouraged to use PRT methods consistently. It is one of the few intervention methods for autism that is both comprehensive and empirically supported.

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