Description: Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) was previously referred to as the Natural Language Paradigm and is viewed by many as an application of incidental teaching procedures (see earlier entry). PRT aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn, monitoring of his/her own behavior, and initiations of communication with others. These changes are described as pivotal because they are viewed as helping the child learn a wide range of other skills. For example, if a child is motivated to get access to colorful toys, he or she may quickly learn color names in order to use them when requesting the toys.

Research Summary: Studies have indicated that PRT may improve academic performance, increase language and play skills, and reduce disruptive behavior in individuals with autism.

Recommendations: PRT may be a useful intervention for teaching some specific language skills and reducing some non-productive behavior for individuals with autism. Although there is much research in the use of incidental teaching procedures for children with autism (see entry on “incidental teaching”), additional experimental research is needed specifically for the use of pivotal response training teasing out the treatment components that its proponents believe are unique to PRT.

Selected References:

Systematic reviews of scientific studies:

Delprato, D.J. (2001). Comparisons of discrete-trial and normalized behavioral intervention for young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 315-325.

Koegel, R.L., & Koegel, L.K. (2006). Pivotal response treatments for autism: Communication, social, & academic development. Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brookes Publishing.

Terpstra, J.E., Higgins, K., & Pierce, T. (2002). Can I play? Classroom-based interventions for teaching play skills to children with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17, 119-126.

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