Pivotal Response Training

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Pivotal Response Image

How does TeachTown: Basics incorporate PRT?

On the computer, the student’s interface depicts a town scene, from which the student can choose which kind of lesson he or she would like to do by selecting from one of the buildings. Research has demonstrated that this role of choice technique keeps motivation and attention to task high (Koegel, O’Dell, & Koegel, 1987). Although the student is offered a choice, the choices that are made available to the student are based on which lessons the student should be working on next in their individualized curriculum. After selecting a building, the student begins a lesson. Linked to each computer lesson, are numerous Off Computer Activities, each written with the basics components of PRT in mind, but also written so that any caregiver, parent, or teacher can easily read and implement them. Within each activity, there are simple instructions that point out how to do the activity but also include strategies for incorporating PRT.

Key features of PRT

  1. Role of choice, shared control - offering choices in the software and in activities enhances motivation.
  2. Clear and uninterrupted instructions or opportunities - clear instructions in each trial present on the computer as well as clear and precise instructions for implementing the off computer activities.
  3. Reinforcement of approximations (prompted trials) are also rewarded in the software. In the Off Computer Activities clear examples of how to look for and reinforce different skill levels are provided.
  4. Reinforcement has a direct relationship to the desired response - in the software, reinforcement (i.e., rewards) are only presented for trials that are independently or prompted correct. In the activities, facilitators are encouraged to differentially reinforce independent responses and clear attempts at responding.
  5. Multiple cues - this refers to multiple components of language presented (e.g., two different objects but same verb) or using descriptors with nouns and actions.
  6. Increasing attention to tasks - a recent study has shown that the computer lessons as well as the rewards are naturally reinforcing and increased attention was demonstrated across all students.
  7. Maintenance tasks - maintenance tasks are interspersed throughout the software. In the Off Computer Activities curriculum it is recommended that once activities are mastered in small and large group settings with higher levels of support from teachers, the activities can be moved to independent work stations or centers where students can engage in them with each other independently.

Clinical definition: Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is a behavioral treatment intervention based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and derived from the work of Koegel, Schreibman, Dunlap, & Horner. PRT incorporates task interspersal, direct reinforcement, and role of choice. Key pivotal behaviors have been identified for students with autism and include motivation and responsivity to multiple cues (Koegel & Koegel). PRT has demonstrated positive changes in these “pivotal behaviors” exhibiting widespread effects on many other behaviors associated with language and social interaction. The components in PRT instructional delivery include:

  • Choice
  • Clear and uninterrupted instructions or opportunities
  • Reinforcement of approximations or attempts
  • Reinforcement that has a direct relationship to the desired response
  • Multiple cues
  • Increasing attention to tasks
  • Maintenance tasks that are interspersed within new learning objectives

PRT provides an instructional method for teaching numerous skills and has been most successful for language, play and social interaction skills in children with autism.