Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is an approach based upon the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which uses ABA techniques to address two defined “pivotal” behaviors (motivation and responsivity to cues) to positively impact behaviors. This theory believes that motivation and responsivity to cues are central behaviors to many other areas of a person’s functioning and that, if these pivotal behaviors can be impacted, then it is likely that other areas will also improve. PRT has been shown to positively impact on a child’s language skills, play skills, social skills, and behavioral issues, all central to children diagnosed with autism.
It differs from Discrete Trial Training, another ABA approach, in that it is provided in the child’s natural environment and directed by the child. The adult takes cues from the child to use naturally occurring events as teaching opportunities and implements natural reinforcers. Strong family involvement and parent training are key to long-term gains for the child and increase the ability of the community to support the child. If parents are given skills to work with their children to increase their ability to communicate effectively and to reduce maladaptive behaviors when the children are very young, it has been shown that these children can participate in regular classroom settings and that their development progresses at a more normal pace. Children between the ages of 18 months to 5, who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, are eligible for this service.