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 MODULE: Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Teaching Key Pivotal Behaviors: Procedures for Implementation


Step 1.  Implementing Peer-Mediated Strategies

When using peer-mediated strategies, typically developing peers are taught to initiate, reinforce, and maintain ongoing interactions with learners with ASD. The following peer-mediated intervention strategies often are used with young children in elementary school; however, they can be adapted for use with older learners.

  1. Paying attention. Peers ensure that learners with ASD are attending to them before initiating a social exchange.
  2. Providing learners with choices. Typically developing peers give choices between different activities and materials to keep motivation high.
  3. Varying materials. Peers vary materials (e.g., toys, paper, writing utensils) frequently, according to the learner’s preferences.
  4. Modeling appropriate social behavior. Peers provide frequent and varied models for appropriate play and social skills, including verbal statements (e.g. “this game is fun!”) and complex actions within play and leisure activities (e.g., acting out a script with dolls, playing kickball, playing a board game).
  5. Reinforcing attempts. Peers verbally reinforce any attempt at social interaction or functional, appropriate play (e.g., while playing catch, peer says, “great throw!”).
  6. Encouraging conversation. Peers withhold the desired object just until the learner says a verbal response related to that object or activity (e.g., waiting for him or her to say “let’s play ball!” before giving the ball).  
  7. Extending conversations: Peers ask questions or encourage conversation centered around tangible objects, especially ones that are part of the activity (e.g., while playing with toy food, peer says, “I like to eat ice cream. Do you like ice cream or pizza?”).
  8. Taking turns. Peer takes turns during play and other social interactions to show learners with ASD different ways to play and interact appropriately and also to encourage sharing and increase motivation.
  9. Narrating play. During play, peers describe what they are doing (e.g., while playing with the toy oven, peer says, “I’m going to cook the pizza.”).
  10. Teaching responsivity to multiple cues. Peers describe objects as clearly as they can and encourage the learner with ASD to do the same. For example, peers may ask the learner with ASD whether he wants to play with the small, green ball or the big, blue ball (Pierce & Schreibman, 1995, 1997b).

Peer-mediated strategies have been found to be successful not only in helping learners with ASD maintain increases in initiations gained during the intervention, but also in helping them generalize these skills to other typically developing peers who have not been trained in PRT. For more information on peer-mediated strategies, please refer to the AIM module Functional Behavior Assessment at www.autisminternetmodules.org.

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