Commitments and Costs Associated with Pivotal Response Therapy

Pivotal response therapy (PRT) branched off from applied behavioral analysis therapy. PRT focuses on developmental achievements for individuals with autism. It is based on a natural reinforcement system, which encourages communication and processing. PRT is play centered and child directed. Parent involvement is a key component of PRT, as it is ideal for the parents or caregivers to establish bonding and communication with their child with autism.

PRT is a scientifically backed intervention with clearly documented benefits. It contains components of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and floortime therapy, which reinforces communication. PRT reinforces with a natural response. If the child says “cup” when he is communicating that he actually wants a drink, he is given an empty cup. When he requests the appropriate drink, he is given that drink. For example, when he says “milk” he is given milk. This approach broadens vocabulary, functional communication and social awareness.  This is only a small scale example of this diverse approach.

Centers for PRT are available in communities across the country, and are currently being funded as programs for intervention and support. PRT encourages increased communication and reduced negative behaviors. Currently, this is the highest recommended approach for autism and is advocated by physicians and educators as the only scientifically verifiable approach. Behavioral progress is guaranteed with proper application of treatment for PRT and ABA approaches.

PRT therapy is administered by a professional with the appropriate levels of training. Typically, these professionals are special educators, speech therapists or behavior therapists. Appropriate therapeutic intervention requires approximately twenty-five to thirty hours per week. There are centers in cities and towns across the country to provide these services. Some school districts also offer intervention services, and deliver them during the school day. Other private companies provide services in the home or at a day center.

School programs which incorporate PRT work well with the child, but are difficult to transfer to the home. For this reason, there are privately funded as well as public organizations providing PRT services for the home environment. Therapy does not necessarily need to take place in the home. Caregiver or parent involvement is imperative. In these settings, a therapist works with the parent and child to build communication and natural reinforcement in a play setting.

The cost of PRT services varies for different clients. The cost is determined by the type of service, and whether it is covered by state funding. In many instances, families do not pay for services directly. Rather, taxes are diverted into each state budget and set aside for these services. Federal money is also distributed to programs with state funding options. These programs are ideal, as they are accountable to treatment guidelines that are determined and enforced by the state. PRT services are lower in cost than comparative treatments. Costs for these services run between $50 and $260 per hour. depending upon the experience and credential of the professional. Many of these costs are covered by insurance or state disability programs. Some states, such as California, have recently passed laws which force insurance companies to cover ABA and PRT services for clients with autism.

Autism treatment is a growing industry. As research reveals more and more about this mysterious disorder, treatment models are developed. The most successful treatments must be made available to clients with autism in order to better understand spectrum behavior. PRT provides clients with access to pro-social behavior development and communication skills that they would not otherwise develop. For this reason, cost assistance is available through many sources. State funding, special programs and private grants are available for individuals with autism to receive the best possible interventions.