Pivotal Response Group Treatment for Parents of Young Children with Autism
Rates of autism have increased in the last ten years in the United States with children being diagnosed as young as 18 months of age and an increasing need for services. The goal of this pilot investigation is to conduct a randomized controlled 12-week trial to examine the effectiveness of pivotal response treatment group (PRTG) in targeting language deficits in young children with autism. PRTG will teach parents pivotal response training strategies in a group format and will be compared to parents who are participating in a psychoeducational group (PEG). It is hypothesized that parents participating in PRTG will demonstrate evidence of targeted skills and that their children will show significant benefits in language abilities, relative to those in the PEG. To achieve these goals, fifty-two children with autism (age range: 2-6.11 years) will be recruited to participate in this study and will be randomized according to age, gender, and intensity of behavioral treatment. Twenty-six children will be randomized to the PRTG and twenty-six to the PEG. The PRTG treatment package will include weekly group therapy sessions. The PEG will consist of group educational sessions that will discuss topics related to the assessment and treatment of children with autism. Standardized and video-taped assessments including parent-child interactions will be conducted at baseline, week 6, post-treatment, and three month follow-up and will be rated by a blind investigator. This research will show that parents of children with autism can learn pivotal response training procedures in a group format and their children will benefit with improved language skills. Findings from this study will be instrumental in designing larger trials that will facilitate the dissemination of parent-delivered early interventions to children with autism.