Using Pivotal Response Treatment at Home:2 Motivation
By: Teal Shirk-Luckett, School Support Consultant-Autism Spectrum Disorder, Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca
Motivation to learn was the initial area targeted by researchers as
they began to think about pivotal areas of development for children with ASD
(Koegel, R.L. & Koegel, L.K., 2012).Using the strategies described below, care providers are able to teach
children with ASD how performing and learning new skills will help them gain access
to desired materials and activities in their environment.
Within the pivotal area of motivation there are several elements to
consider: child-choice, reinforcing attempts, natural reinforcement,
interspersing tasks, and varying tasks.
Child choice/child lead OR shared control
In PRT the child chooses the materials, location, topics and/or
toys.The caregiver follows the child’s
lead within the activity while focusing on a skill they wish to teach.Many studies have demonstrated increased
skill development, productivity, increased interest and enthusiasm when the
child’s choice was used while teaching (Koegel, L.K., Koegel, R.L., Harrower,
& Carter, 1999, p179).
Within any activity, some level of choice can be given to your
child.Once your child has made their
choice, you can focus on the skill you want to teach within that choice. Children can choose:
What clothes they wear (talking, communication, independent dressing),
Which item to put on first (communication, independent dressing),
To walk or skip to the car (successful transitions),
To do homework on the coffee table or their desk (homework completion),
Which writing/drawing implement to use (labeling
objects/colours/prepositions, drawing or writing tasks),
What recipe to make for dinner (self-help, cooking, family chores)
To use a fork or spoon (self-feeding),
Which toy/book to play/look at (learning new words, attending to person
or object, reading, learning the alphabet, turn taking etc.)
And so on.
Children with ASD show the skill they are learning more and appear
happier when new skills are mixed with things they do well (Dunlop, 1984;
Dunlop & Koegel, 1980, Koegel & Koegel, 1986, Koegel & Johnson,
1989 as cited in Koegel, L.K. et al.,1999, p179).Therefore, PRT uses
a lot of acquired skills mixed with the new skills.This can also lead to less “escape behaviour”
(Koegel, L.K., et al., 1999, p 179).For
example if your child is working on colours, after they ask for a specific
coloured crayon, you should ask them to do other tasks that are known or easy.
If you were teaching your child to cook, you might first teach them to
find their favourite recipe.Then you
might ask them to do things that are easy.Instead of asking them to get out all the ingredients, you might ask
them each one separately.“Get the
macaroni from the top shelf”.Next you
could ask another skill you want to teach.“Please grate this block of cheese”; reinforcing the cheese grating with
a bite of freshly grated cheese.You
would continue in this way mixing tasks they can easily do with something you
want them to learn.
Task variation while teaching
Children with ASD are thought to have difficulty using the skills they
learn in different places, or with different materials or people.Some learners are able to perform a skill
only if it is presented exactly as it was taught.PRT deals with this challenge by using
different materials, people and places while teaching skills.Varying the activities, skills being taught
and reinforcers also keep the child (and adult) interested (Koegel, R. L. &
Koegel, L.K., 2012, p48 &58-59).It
has been shown that when activities are varied, the child is happier and learns
faster (Dunlop and Koegel, R.L., 1980; as cited in Koegel, R. L. & Koegel,
L.K., 2012, p58).In the colouring
example, colours may also be taught when choosing what to wear, sorting dirty
clothing, choosing foods, cars or other toys to play with, bath toys and so
on.While drawing you may also teach
specific drawing skills, labeling pictures or objects, saying`` yes`` or ``no``
and so on.
Reinforcing the child when they truly try to do the right thing
increases their desire to try the next time.The child gets what they want only when they correctly attempt the skill
you are teaching.R.L. Koegel, O’Dell
& Dunlap showed that nonverbal children with ASD talked more often more
quickly when their attempts to talk were rewarded (1988, as cited in Koegel, R.
L. & Koegel, L.K., 2012, p56).
Any true attempt at doing the right thing is reinforced. If the child is trying, but is not correct or
has done better before, they still are reinforced.While colouring, if your child reached for
the red crayon, looked at you and said “rrr” they would get the crayon even if
they had once said “red crayon”.If your
child said “red crayon” with his hands in his lap while looking at the floor he
would not get the crayon.He had not
truly tried to communicate with you.
Natural reinforcers are directly related to the activity.When your child tries to do the skill you are
teaching, you give them something they want that is part of the activity. Skills that are reinforced in this way are learned
faster by children with ASD than skills that are reinforced with something the
child wants, but is not related to the skill.For example, when working on colours your child could ask for a red
crayon and then get the red crayon (getting the crayon reinforces asking for
it).Your child gets to eat their
favourite meal for dinner after they tried some of the cooking tasks.They also may get small bites as they try to
grate the cheese or drain the pasta water.
Using these strategies, you can motivate your child to engage in the
learning process with you while continuing in their daily activities and routines.
Including these motivational principles
into an intervention approach “significantly improves language, academic and
social functioning, while simultaneously decreasing disruptive behaviour”
(Koegel, R.L., Koegel, L.K & McNerney, E.K., 2001, p22).Once a child is motivated to learn, and
caregivers are comfortable implementing these strategies, the child can then be
taught to self-initiate learning opportunities.