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Developing an Empirically-Based Adaptation and Training Model for Intervention Scale-Up of Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching (CPRT)

There are multiple evidence-based practices (EBPs) available for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, teachers' use of these EBPs is varied, and they report high levels of adaptation to improve flexibility and fit to educational contexts and student needs. Across research studies, data indicate educators make extreme adaptations to EBPs in community service settings. This research-to-practice gap has been viewed as both a training and implementation problem, and may contribute to the decrease in effect sizes of EBPs once they are moved into community care. The use of a complete EBP protocol is often not feasible for community-based service providers. This may be due to limited resources, the need to adapt to diverse client characteristics, or poor access to ongoing professional support for the practice. It is clear that EBPs can be systematically adapted to fit with student and classroom characteristics to improve teachers' fidelity and thus facilitate better student outcomes.

Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching (CPRT) is one example of an EBP collaboratively adapted by researchers and educators. The original model, Pivotal Response Training (PRT), has been consistently identified as an EBP in multiple systematic reviews. When compared with other more structured behavioral techniques, PRT has been found to be more effective for increasing verbalizations and contingent language use and leads to concomitant decreases in inappropriate and disruptive behaviors. The aims of the current development and innovation project are to:

  1. Identify individual CPRT components, or combinations of components, that have the greatest impact on student outcomes.
  2. Evaluate relationships between fidelity of CPRT components and student characteristics, educational goals, and teaching activity.
  3. Use data from Aims 1 and 2 to develop an interactive decision tree to inform adaptation of CPRT for individual students, goals, and activities.
  4. Develop an interactive on-line training and distance coaching model for teachers and paraprofessionals.
  5. Pilot test the distance training/coaching model and decision tree, comparing an initial live training with facilitated web-based training (both in combination with interactive web-based practice and distance coaching) to examine the effect on teacher and paraprofessional fidelity and student outcomes.


Funding Agency:  

San Diego State University (SDSU) Research Foundation

Funding Period:  

09/01/2020 to 08/31/2024

Award Amount:  



Ann M. Sam, Principal Investigator
Julie Chin, Educational Technology Specialist
Wendy M. Morgan, Senior Implementation Specialist
Victoria Waters, Educational Consultant