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 MODULE: Pivotal Response Training (PRT)


What Is PRT?


PRT is an intervention or treatment approach that is derived from the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA; R. L. Koegel, Openden, Fredeen, & Koegel, 2006). PRT focuses on building a set of four “pivotal” skills or qualities, including (a) motivation to respond to natural environmental and social cues, (b) responding to multiple (rather than single) cues in the environment, (c) management of own behavior, and (d) self-initiation of behavior in appropriate contexts. These are called pivotal skills because they are likely to positively affect the learner’s acquisition and use of a wider range of developmental or behavior skills than those specifically targeted for the PRT intervention (Burke & Cerniglia, 1990; L. K. Koegel & Koegel, 1995; Pierce & Schreibman, 1997a).

The core goals of PRT are to:

  • Teach learners to respond to the many learning opportunities and social interactions that occur in the natural environment;
  • Decrease learners’ needs for constant supervision and interaction with adults;
  • Promote family involvement and improve the quality of life for all family members;
  • Decrease the number of services delivered in separate settings that remove  learners from the natural environment;
  • Improve learners’ academic performance;
  • Advance learners’ communication and language skills;
  • Foster learners’ social interactions and friendships with typically developing peers;
  • Reduce learners’ interfering behaviors (e.g., disruptive, repetitive, stereotypical);
  • Move learners toward a typical developmental trajectory by teaching a diverse number of behaviors; and
  • Broaden learners’ interests.

This module will focus on (a) defining the core pivotal behaviors to be targeted for intervention, (b) describing intervention techniques, and (c) illustrating how they can be implemented in natural settings for learners with ASD from early childhood through adolescence.

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