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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pilot RCT of an Online Pivotal Response Treatment Training Program for Parents of Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Author(s): Greenfield, Elizabeth
  • Advisor(s): Vernon, Ty
  • et al.

Despite advances in early interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), disparities in access to contemporary evidence-based treatments remain a serious concern. Numerous barriers, including delays in translating research to community practice, cost of services, extensive time commitments, and geographical distance to trained providers limit the ability for families to take advantage of the latest scientifically based autism interventions. To address this, recent studies have begun to explore parent-implemented interventions via an online or telehealth format. These approaches are particularly beneficial as they improve access to training for families, can fit into busy family schedules, and lower the cost of treatment. The current project examined the feasibility, utility, and preliminary efficacy of a newly developed online course designed to help parents implement an evidence-based naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention, Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), for their young children with ASD. The new program was examined using a randomized waitlist control trial design. Parents submitted weekly videos capturing their use of treatment strategies, which were coded for PRT fidelity of implementation (FOI) and child social communication behaviors. Results indicate that parent PRT fidelity significantly improved from pre- to post-treatment for those in the immediate treatment condition. Changes in child social communication behaviors were not statistically significant. However, there was a strong trend toward improvements in eye contact following course completion. Qualitative feedback from parents also indicated a high level of satisfaction with the program. Results are discussed in terms of implications for the continued use of online intervention programs for parents of children with ASD.

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