Pivotal response training (PRT) targets pivotal areas of a child’s development

Pivotal response training (PRT) (aka pivotal response teaching) was initially developed in the 1970’s by Robert L. Koegel, PhD and Lynn Kern Koegel, PhD at The Koegel Autism Research & Training Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It is used to teach language, decrease disruptive/self-stimulatory behaviors, and increase social, communication, and academic skills. Pivotal response training (PRT) is described as a naturalistic intervention model adapted from ABA approaches. However, rather than target individual behaviors one at a time, it targets pivotal areas of a child’s development, such as motivation, responsivity to multiple cues, self-management, and social initiations.

The child and family play an important role in determining the activities and objects that will be used in the PRT program. Pivotal response training (PRT) identifies and utilizes underlying motivational strategies incorporated throughout intervention and as often as possible.

These include:

  • Child choice
  • Task variation
  • Interspersing maintenance tasks
  • Rewarding attempts
  • The use of direct and natural reinforcers

A child’s intentional attempts at a target behavior are rewarded with a natural reinforcer (e.g., if a child attempts a request for a stuffed animal, the child receives the animal, not a piece of candy or other unrelated reinforcer).

By targeting these critical areas, proponents suggest widespread, collateral improvements in other social, communicative, and behavioral areas that are not specifically targeted. PRT is described as comprehensive and empirically supported.

Link to websites Koegel Autism Center at the University of California Santa Barbara and Koegel Autism Consultants for more information.