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Pivotal Response Treatment

Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is one of the best studied and validated behavioral treatments for autism. A High quality form of applied behavioral analysis (ABA), it is play based and child initiated. Typically involving 25 or more hours per week for the learner, as well as instruction for the parents and other caregivers, its goals include the development of communication, language, positive social behaviors, and relief from disruptive self-stimulatory behaviors.

Rather than target individual behaviors, the PRT therapist targets "pivotal" areas of a child's development. These include motivation, response to multiple cues, self-management and the initiation of social interactions. The philosophy is that, by targeting these critical areas, PRT will produce broad improvements across other areas of sociability, communication, behavior and academic skill building.

Motivation strategies are an important part of the PRT approach. These emphasize "natural" reinforcement. For example, if a child makes a meaningful attempt to request, say, a stuffed animal, the reward is the stuffed animal – not a candy or other unrelated reward.

Though used primarily with preschool and elementary school learners, studies show that PRT can also help adolescents and young adults. Indeed, autism-affected persons of all ages may benefit from its techniques. In all age groups, the learner plays a crucial role in determining the activities and objects that will be used in a PRT exchange.

Pivotal response treatment was developed in the 1970s by educational psychologists Robert Koegel, Ph.D., and Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D., at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Koegels are now director and clinical director, respectively, of the UCSB Koegel Autism Research Center.

The Instruction; Question; or Opportunity to Respond MUST be

Reinforcers should be


Social Initiations

Self Management

Responsivity to Multiple Cues

The natural environment aspect of PRT is designed to provide frequent everyday opportunities that directly support recognizing, attending and responding to multiple cues.