Pivotal Response Therapy


Pivotal response therapy is based on the idea that behavior hinges on 'pivotal' behavioral skills—motivation and the ability to respond to multiple cues—and that development of these skills will result in collateral improvements. Rather than target individual behaviors one at a time, PRT targets “pivotal” areas of development: motivation, response to multiple cues, self-management, and social initiations. The theory is that by targeting these areas, there will be improvements in social, communicative and behavioral areas generally even without specifically targeting specific issues in these domains.


The child plays a crucial role in determining the activities and objects that will be used in the PRT exchange. Intentful attempts at the 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). Pivotal Response Treatment is used to teach language, decrease disruptive/self-stimulatory behaviors, and increase social, communication, and academic skills.

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