child playing


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects millions of children worldwide, presenting unique challenges in their development and social interaction. However, with the advancement of research and therapy techniques, there is hope for improving the lives of children with autism. One such evidence-based intervention for child’s development is Pivotal Response Training (PRT), a comprehensive approach that focuses on pivotal areas of development. In this article, we will explore the concept of PRT, its principles, its effectiveness, and the impact it has on children with autism.

Understanding Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Pivotal Response Training is an intervention model rooted in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Developed by Drs. Robert and Lynn Koegel, PRT aims to enhance critical response behaviors (pivotal behaviors) that have a significant influence on a child’s overall development. By targeting these pivotal behaviors, PRT helps improve language, social skills, communication, motivation, play skills and self-initiation in children with autism.

The Principles of PRT

  1. Child Choice and Control: PRT emphasizes giving children with autism the opportunity to make choices and have control over their learning. By allowing them to choose activities, objects, or topics of interest, children feel motivated and engaged in the learning process. This sense of autonomy promotes a positive learning experience and enhances skill acquisition.
  2. Natural Reinforcement: PRT utilizes natural reinforcers that are meaningful to the child, such as praise, tokens, or access to preferred activities. By using these reinforcers, therapists can increase the likelihood of desired behavior and encourage the child’s active participation. This approach ensures that the reinforcement is relevant and reinforces functional skills.
  3. Child-Initiated Interactions: PRT encourages children to initiate interactions and take the lead in activities. This promotes independence, self-regulation, and confidence, enabling them to generalize skills across various settings and with different individuals. By empowering the child to initiate communication and social interactions, PRT fosters their social engagement and builds meaningful connections.
  4. Response to Multiple Cues: PRT focuses on teaching children with autism to respond to multiple cues, promoting flexibility and generalization of skills. By gradually introducing variations in the environment or tasks, PRT helps children develop adaptive responses to different situations. This enables them to transfer learned skills to everyday life scenarios, improving their overall functioning and independence.


Effectiveness of PRT

Research studies have indicated the positive impact of Pivotal Response Training on children with autism. Here are some key findings:

  1. Improvement in Social Skills: PRT has shown significant improvements in social interactions, including joint attention, eye contact, sharing, and turn-taking. These enhanced social skills can greatly benefit children in their daily interactions and relationships. Improved social skills also contribute to increased opportunities for inclusion and participation in various social settings.
  2. Language and Communication Development: PRT has proven effective in improving expressive and receptive language skills among children with autism. By targeting pivotal behaviors related to communication, such as requesting, labeling, and commenting, PRT helps children develop functional language abilities. Enhanced communication skills facilitate better expression of needs, thoughts, and emotions, leading to improved quality of life.
  3. Generalization of Skills: PRT emphasizes teaching skills that can be generalized across various contexts and individuals. This approach enhances a child’s ability to apply learned skills in different environments, improving their overall independence and adaptability. Generalization of skills enables children to effectively navigate diverse social, educational, and community settings.
  4. Reduction in Challenging Behaviors: PRT has been successful in reducing challenging behaviors commonly associated with autism, such as tantrums and self-stimulatory behaviors. By addressing underlying skills and motivations, PRT helps children develop alternative, more appropriate behaviors. This reduction in challenging behaviors not only improves the child’s overall functioning but also enhances their social interactions and relationships.


Implementing PRT for Children with Autism

Putting PRT into practice for children with autism involves a multi-step process that requires the active participation of both the therapist and the child. The process begins with identifying the child’s interest and using it as a basis for interaction. Next, the therapist presents a learning opportunity tied to the child’s interest, prompting the child to respond. The child’s attempt is then reinforced naturally, for instance, by fulfilling the request or providing the desired item. The process is interactive and dynamic, with the child taking an active role in the learning process.

PRT can be implemented across all spectrum disorders in various environments, such as home, school, or community settings, and can involve a range of individuals including parents, teachers, and peers. This contributes to the generalization of skills learned during PRT sessions, allowing the child with autism to apply these skills in different contexts and with various people. The ultimate goal of PRT is to instill a lasting, positive change in the child’s behavior and to enhance their overall quality of life.

Tips for Implementing PRT Effectively

  1. Identify the child’s interests: Use the child’s interests to establish a base for interaction and learning.
  2. Present the learning opportunity: Introduce activities and tasks that are motivating or interesting to the child.
  3. Encourage self-initiation: Promote natural communication by allowing the child to take an active role in initiating interactions and responding to prompts.
  4. Reinforce responses naturally: Reward the child’s attempts by providing a natural reinforcer, such as fulfilling their request or providing the desired item.
  5. Involve all stakeholders: Ensure consistency and generalization of learned skills by involving parents, educators, peers, therapists, and caregivers in the intervention process.
  6. Create meaningful relationships: Facilitate the child’s successful inclusion in school settings and foster meaningful relationships with their peers.
  7. Track progress: Monitor the child’s progress regularly to evaluate the effectiveness of PRT strategies.
  8. Adjust as needed: Make necessary modifications in response to changing needs, so that the intervention remains effective and relevant for the child.

By employing these tips, families, educators, and therapists can ensure that PRT sessions are effective in supporting children and young adults with autism and helping them reach their highest potential.

Who provides PRT?

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is early intervention typically provided by trained therapists, educators, or psychologists who have received adequate training and supervision in the method. However, a unique feature of PRT is that it also encourages parents and caregivers to be actively involved in the intervention. Parents are trained to implement PRT strategies in everyday situations at home and in community settings, which contributes to the consistency and generalization of learned skills. Teachers and peers can also be trained to use PRT techniques in school settings to facilitate the child’s successful inclusion in the classroom. This broad-based approach ensures that the child is surrounded by supportive figures who can reinforce pivotal behaviors across various contexts, thereby promoting their optimal development.

Is PRT covered by insurance?

Coverage for Pivotal Response Training (PRT) varies significantly based on the specific insurance policy and the location. In many cases, PRT may be covered under insurance plans when it is recommended as a medically necessary treatment for autism. However, it’s crucial to communicate with your insurance provider to ascertain the specifics of your policy. Some insurance providers may require a diagnosis, pre-authorization, or a referral from a primary care physician before they will cover PRT. Understanding your insurance plan’s provisions regarding PRT can help you navigate potential financial challenges and ensure your child’s access to this beneficial therapy.

Incorporating PRT in Intervention Programs

Pivotal Response Training can be incorporated into various intervention programs, including school-based programs, therapy sessions, and home-based interventions. Collaborative efforts between therapists, educators, and parents are crucial for the successful implementation of PRT. The involvement of all stakeholders ensures consistency, reinforcement, and generalization of learned skills across different environments.


Pivotal Response Training (PRT) offers a comprehensive and individualized approach to address the unique needs of children with autism. By focusing on pivotal areas of development, such as social skills, communication, motivation, and behavior, PRT aims to improve the overall quality of life for children with autism and their families. The evidence-based principles of PRT, including child choice and control, natural reinforcement, child-initiated interactions, and response to multiple cues, provide a solid foundation for effective intervention strategies. With its positive impact on expressive and receptive language skills, generalization of learned skills and social behaviors, and reduction in challenging behaviors, PRT remains a valuable tool for helping children with autism reach their highest potential.

By involving all stakeholders, including parents, educators, peers, therapists, and caregivers in the intervention process, PRT can be implemented successfully across various home and community environments. This broad-based approach facilitates the child’s successful inclusion in school settings, allowing them to interact with their peers and build meaningful relationships. Ultimately, PRT is an invaluable resource for supporting children with autism and helping them reach their highest potential.

Latest posts by golden-user (see all)
Sign up for our Newsletter

Enter your email and stay on top of things,