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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 Dec;51(12):1321-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02326.x.

Brief parent training in pivotal response treatment for preschoolers with autism.

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  • 1Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.



Evidence of improved outcomes with early behavioural intervention has placed the early treatment of autism as a health priority. However, long waiting lists for treatment often preclude timely access, raising the question of whether parents could be trained in the interim. Parent training in pivotal response treatment (PRT) has been shown to enhance the communication skills of children with autism. This is typically provided within a 25-hour programme, although less intensive parent training may also be effective. The main objective of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of brief training in PRT for parents of preschoolers with autism, who were awaiting, or unable to access, more comprehensive treatment.


Eight preschoolers with autism and their parents participated in the study. A non-concurrent multiple (across-participants) baseline design was used, in which parents were seen individually for three 2-hour training sessions on PRT. Child and parent outcomes were assessed before, immediately after, and 2 to 4 months following training using standardised tests, questionnaires and behaviour coded directly from video recordings.


Overall, children's communication skills, namely functional utterances, increased following training. Parents' fidelity in implementing PRT techniques also improved after training, and generally these changes were maintained at follow-up. A moderate to strong relationship was found between parents' increased ability to implement PRT techniques and improvement in the children's communication skills.


Our findings suggest that brief parent training in PRT promises to provide an immediate, cost-effective intervention that could be adopted widely.

© 2010 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. © 2010 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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