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Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is a systematic approach to helping children use expressive language.  This can begin with children who have never spoken, but is also applicable to children who have a large vocabulary. Since PRT is being used to teach expressive language, previously learned non-verbal communication systems (e.g., PECS exchange, sign language) are not acknowledged during PRT sessions. The focus is only on the child using expressive language.

 In PRT, children are provided with opportunities to access a highly preferred item.  The therapist then removes the item and blocks access.  Depending on the child’s ability, the therapist may wait for a simple sound initiated by the child, or model a sound for the child to imitate, accepting approximations to help shape and form language.  For a child with more advanced language, the focus may be on increasing sentence length or integrating the use of descriptive words (e.g., adjectives, attributes). At ABA of North Texas, Pivotal Response Training is an integral part of each child’s therapy session.

Interested in trying this at home?  Here are some important tips to help you succeed:

  • Use highly preferred toys that your child can’t have any other time (e.g., put them in a special box only available for PRT time).
  • Sit on the floor and interact with your child with a positive attitude, showing them that the activity is fun, not work.
  • BE CAREFUL not to reinforce incorrect responses or maladaptive behaviors.  If your child is frustrated, prompt them to request the item in a more appropriate manner (e.g., pointing, sign language, other mastered skills for requesting).  Do not provide access to the items when your child is engaging in problem behaviors.