Pivotal Response Therapy

Children do not need a diagnosis to access our services and our therapy approach can support children with a wide range of challenges.

PRT is an Applied Behaviour Analysis approach that focuses on child choice, child initiation and motivation as being key components to effective therapy. It is regarded by experts as the most ‘child friendly’ version of ABA and has one of the strongest evidence bases.

PRT was first established in the 1980s by Drs Lynne and Robert Koegel. Robert had been an assistant psychologist working with Lovaas on his initial studies and Lynne is a speech and language pathologist. Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is one of the best studied and validated behavioural treatments for autism. Its goals include the development of communication, language and positive social behaviours and relief from disruptive self-stimulatory behaviours.

Rather than target individual behaviours, the PRT therapist targets “pivotal” areas of a child’s development. These include motivation, response to multiple cues, and the initiation of social interactions. The philosophy is that, by targeting these critical areas, PRT will produce broad improvements across other areas of social skills, communication, behaviour and academic skill building. Motivation strategies are an important part of the PRT approach. These emphasize “natural” reinforcement. For example, if a child makes a meaningful attempt to request, say, a stuffed animal, the reward is the stuffed animal – not a candy or other unrelated reward. PRT strategies are a core component of the Early Start Denver Model early intervention approach, which has been shown through recent research to have a significant effect on early development for young children with autism.


There are hundreds of studies that have been undertaken into the efficacy of PRT and it is currently in the top 3 evidence based approaches for autism named in the latest American Medical Council study. Recent research has shown that 95% of children beginning PRT before they are 3.5 years old will develop functional verbal communication.

For more information related to Pivotal Response Treatment® research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, visit: www.education.ucsb.edu/autism.

For an outline of recent research publications related to Pivotal Response Treatment® www.education.ucsb.edu/autism/research
Additional information on PRT® as an evidence-based practice and the PRT empirical research support can be found by clicking on the following links: