Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


Ninth Annual Autism Conference; Las Vegas, NV; 2015

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #6
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Autism, ABA, and Pivotal Response Treatment

Saturday, January 24, 2015
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Robert L. Koegel, Ph.D.
Chair: Robert K. Ross (Beacon ABA Services)
ROBERT L. KOEGEL (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Dr. Robert Koegel has focused his career on autism, specializing in language intervention, family support, and school integration. He has published more than 200 articles and papers relating to the treatment of autism. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. Models of his procedures have been used in public schools and in parent education programs throughout California, the United States, and other countries. He has trained health care and special education leaders in the United States and abroad. Dr. Koegel and his wife, Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, are the developers of pivotal response treatment, which focuses on motivation. They were the recipients of the first annual Children's Television Workshop Sesame Street Award for Brightening the Lives of Children and the first annual Autism Speaks Award for Science and Research. The University of California, Santa Barbara, received a $2.35 million gift to expand the physical space of its autism center, which was renamed the Koegel Autism Center in recognition of the Koegels' work on behalf of children with autism, and a large gift from the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation to start the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Asperger Center, which is now part of the Koegel Autism Center.

Historically, autism has presented major challenges for treatment providers, educators, families, and the community at large. Before the 1960s while there were isolated examples of successful treatments reported in lay documents and books, such as Itard's The Wild Boy of Aveyron, nothing systematic or replicable was reported and most believed that intervention for this population was impossible. Fortunately, in the 1960s and '70s researchers such as Lovaas, Hewett, Lovett, Wolf, Risley, Sloane, etc., showed that behavioral interventions (developed through ABA) could substantially improve large numbers of individual target behaviors, including self-help skills, academic skills, disruptive behavior, and language skills. This initial research led to very large degrees of optimism and hope for children with autism, particularly for families who had previously been told their children were uneducable and should be institutionalized. Initially, the interventions dealt with literally thousands of individual target behaviors, and required extremely large amounts of time and effort for both the interventionists and for the children. Beginning in the 1980s, researchers were finding that certain core pivotal areas of autism appeared to be responsible for very large numbers of response classes of both appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, and the possibility existed for developing a very efficient and effective treatment that would treat those "pivotal areas," that could result in widespread, fluidly integrated gains. Although it took decades to identify interventions for pivotal areas, iterations of interventions developed through ABA, such as Pivotal Response Treatment, could dramatically improve the speed and naturalness of the recovery process. That is, by targeting key pivotal areas, such as motivation for social communication, literally thousands of fluidly integrated improvements occurred extremely rapidly, improving not only thousands of individual target behaviors, but also improving the entire condition of autism, as well as reducing stress for family members. This presentation will describe the various pivotal areas that have been researched and procedures for implementing Pivotal Response Treatment. Research outcomes, including single subject designs and randomized clinical trials will be presented as well as videotaped vignettes of Pivotal Response Treatment being implemented.

Target Audience:

Psychologists, behavior analysts, practitioners, and graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants should be able to: (1) describe the treatment of individual target behaviors related to autism; (2) describe the key pivotal areas underlying the condition of autism; (3) explain the interventions that target those pivotal areas, producing extremely rapid and fluidly integrated gains in not only the target behaviors, but in the entire condition of autism.
Keyword(s): pivotal response



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