Understanding Pivotal Response Training in ABA

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In this blog post, I will be writing about an innovative form of ABA intervention called Pivotal Response Training. In the introduction paragraph, I will write a brief overview of what is pivotal response training and why it is beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). From there, I’ll go on to talk about how parents can implement PRT into their everyday lives as well as where they should start if they are interested in learning more.

Pivotal Response Training is a type of therapy that uses the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to teach skills. The ABA acronym stands for “Applied Behavioral Analysis.” Read more in detail here: pivotal response training aba examples.


Pivotal Response Training: What Is It? 

PRT also helps children with autism reduce stimming, or self-stimulating actions, which can be distracting when teachers, parents, or classmates are attempting to communicate with the kid.

Unlike some other ABA therapy approaches, PRT focuses on “pivotal” events in a child’s development, which might include a wide range of interactions and reactions, rather than on learning one new item at a time. Some of these crucial regions could include:

  • Motivation to communicate, socialize, and concentrate on a single task.

  • Choosing to initiate social connections, in particular.

  • Self-management or self-regulation.

  • Multiple cues are responded to at the same time.

Positive changes in one area of a child’s life are thought to extend to other parts of the child’s life, resulting in widespread improvements. Positive behavior should be rewarded in accordance with what the therapist or parent requires from the engagement. If a child has difficulty communicating and makes an attempt to request a specific meal as a snack, even if they do not accomplish the behavior correctly, the attempt should be rewarded with that snack rather than an unrelated gift.

Other persons who engage with autistic children, such as siblings, extended relatives, teachers, school officials, and other therapists, can also benefit from learning PRT. PRT should be available to children with autism in a number of contexts, including their homes, schools, and communities.

Pivotal Response Training’s History

Dr. Robert L. Koegel and Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel developed this specific ABA therapy approach at Stanford University in the 1970s. PRT was once known as the Natural Language Paradigm, but it was quickly expanded to include additional behavioral changes in children with autism, not simply language use.

PRT looks for turning points in a child’s growth and behavior. When these crucial responses are addressed, behavioral cusps can be shifted. These modifications then spread throughout the child’s life, boosting their interpersonal interactions. These favorable connections then create experiences that reinforce one other.

There are nine single-subject studies that support PRT as an evidence-based treatment with essential approaches to teaching new behaviors, according to a paper released in 2010. Children with autism between the ages of 2 and 16 benefit the most from the procedure. PRT has been shown to help children with autism who are 5 years old or younger improve verbal communication skills, which they utilize as their major way of communication with peers and caregivers.

How Is Pivotal Response Training Used Right Now?

In pivotal response training, six motivational procedures are used. They’re as follows:

  1. Providing options based on the child’s preferences.

  2. Getting the attention of the child.

  3. Giving the youngster concrete opportunities to respond, such as taking turns.

  4. Using a variety of tasks and interspersing the maintenance of past learning with the acquisition of new skills.

  5. The use of both natural and contingent reinforcement.

  6. Attempts to learn new or specialised abilities are reinforced.

The following is an example of a typical session:

  • Specific directions are given by the parent or therapist.

  • They ask the youngster to select a stimulus, such as a toy.

  • They help the child concentrate.

  • The parent or therapist supports the desired behavior, such as using linguistic skills to request the toy.

  • After that, the therapist or parent mimics the desired action, such as saying aloud, “May I please have the toy?”

  • They then give prizes for attempting to carry out this conduct.

During the play session, activities sustain past behavioral changes while simultaneously implementing the new behavioral change.

It’s vital to note that in PRT sessions, floor time or play time is significantly less structured than in other ABA therapies. The sessions are guided by the children, and the parent or therapist rewards actions that show improvement, but no explicit learning outcomes are required. Allowing children more independence, according to PRT practitioners, boosts their ability to self-motivate, be interested, and seek their own transformation after seeing the rewards.

Because they do not have to construct specific drills or routines for certain behaviors, PRT may work better for parents or instructors in prekindergarten or special education classrooms. Rather, they can aid in long-term behavioral modification. 

Evidence suggests that pivotal response training benefits children with autism.

While some scientific research suggest that PRT can help with specific behaviors, few studies back up the approach’s claim that it can enhance non-targeted habits. PRT may not be as successful as promised if crucial actions are not pivotal and do not cascade into bigger, long-term behavioral gains. However, it appears to be useful in some situations when used in conjunction with ABA therapy.

In comparison to more rigorous and regulated ABA therapy, other studies demonstrate that PRT is successful in areas including social communication in children with autism.

A 2014 study indicated that children with autism who participated improved their pragmatic abilities in general and obtained better skills in specified areas, such as self-regulation of improper social initiating, use of context, creating rapport, and stereotyped language. Children with autism may be less disruptive or off-task when their therapy involves more motivating elements, according to one theory.

Finally, PRT assists children with autism in modifying their behaviors so that they can become self-sufficient and fulfilled adults. Many insurance companies will cover part or all of this treatment because it is classified as one of the evidence-based ways to assisting children with autism. If you want to get PRT training or find alternative PRT-based interventions, you can talk to your health insurance provider about it. 


Pivotal Response Training is a type of ABA that focuses on teaching children to respond to their environment. It has been used in the treatment of autism and other developmental disorders for over 10 years. Reference: pivotal response training steps.

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