What is PRT?
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is one of the most proven behavioral approaches for treating children with autism spectrum disorders.
PRT is a play-based method that uses ABA and targets improving “pivotal” development areas instead of individual behaviors. It’s based on the idea that changes in pivotal responses can spark widespread progress in other developmental areas. We have seen this effect at work in our current students! Teaching is rooted in "positive reinforcement," an ABA technique that rewards certain behaviors to build motivation. For children learning their first words, PRT uses positive reinforcement in the context of natural consequences to communicative behaviors.
PRT was created in the 1970s by Dr. Robert Koegel and Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel at the University of California - Santa Barbara. They combined several research-based interventions to improve children’s social and communicative growth. Pivotal response treatment is highly effective for preschool, elementary, and middle school students with autism.
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The Four Pivotal Areas
Children learn faster if they are motivated, so finding the child's motivation is the first step. Rather than force tasks, PRT allows the child to choose nearly all activities and elements of play, which boosts motivation to learn, socialize, and communicate.
PRT teaches children how to self-regulate and manage their own behaviors and learning, once motivation is found. This helps foster independence and skills like self-advocacy.
Children with autism sometimes have trouble initiating socially. Techniques like "shared control" between the child and therapist promotes self-initiations and communication.
Response to Multiple Cues
Examples of a "multiple cue" would be asking for the same thing in different ways, or using multiple words to describe something. Responding to multiple cues can eventually help children focus on both people and objects at the same time (e.g. listen to the teacher and do work).
Qualifications to Provide PRT Therapy
Practitioners of PRT typically need special certification beyond their training and licensing. Most PRT providers attain at least a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, education, ABA, or therapy. Five levels of PRT certification can be obtained. Currently, our Director Adair has obtained certification at Level II (First Words).
Our director has completed 15 hours of distance training for the DTT model, which is the original foundational model of ABA and may be appropriate for children of certain ages or learning certain skills. We apply DTT techniques only occasionally, as we believe that learning is best through naturalistic means.