Examining Effectiveness of Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching in Public Schools

Panel Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 10:55 AM
Room: 516ABC (Palais des congres de Montreal)
A. C. Stahmer1, J. Suhrheinrich2, S. R. Rieth2,3, K. S. Dickson3, S. F. Vejnoska4 and S. Roesch2, (1)Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California at Davis MIND Institute, Sacramento, CA, (2)San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, (3)Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, San Diego, CA, (4)University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA

Autism interventions that are shown to be efficacious in controlled research settings are often not well integrated into schools, demonstrating the need for translation or adaptation for classroom use. These practices can be systematically adapted to ensure a fit with student and classroom characteristics while maintaining the active ingredients of the intervention. Such adaptations should improve teachers’ use of the strategies and thus facilitate better outcomes for students (e.g., Durlak & DuPre, 2008; O'Donnell, 2008; Sanetti & Kratochwill, 2009; Stahmer & Gist, 2001). Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching (CPRT) is a behavioral intervention for children with ASD adapted from Pivotal Response Training through an iterative process in collaboration with researchers, teachers, and school administrators (Stahmer, Suhrheinrich, & Rieth, 2017).


This presentation will provide child outcomes from a large-scale community effectiveness trail of CPRT in schools.


The study used a randomized waitlist-control design with 108 classrooms over three years. Teachers (n=108) and students (n=256) from 17 school districts participated. Training procedures included 12 hours of small group didactic instruction, including goal setting, supervised exercises and role-playing. Individual coaching followed at weekly, then monthly intervals upon completion of didactic training. During coaching, teachers worked with their own students during regular classroom activities. Each teacher enrolled two students in their classroom to follow for the duration of the study. Child measures included the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule- 2nd Edition (ADOS-2), student educational goals, cognitive assessment, Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) and Pervasive Developmental Disability Behavioral Index (PDDBI). The VABS and PDDBI were collected from both parent and teacher respondents.


A diverse sample of students with ASD who were 35% Hispanic/Latinx, with a mean age of 5.8 years (r=3-11) participated. Student data indicate that overall students made significant progress in distal measures of cognitive and adaptive skills, but no differences were seen by group. However, results indicate significantly greater change on PDDBI scales of core ASD symptoms, including sensory/perceptual approach behaviors (p=.004) and repetitive/ pragmatic problems (p=.07) for students with CPRT-trained teachers versus observation classrooms. Scores on some scales were moderated by student age, teacher experience and classroom quality. Additionally, significant differences in student active engagement were identified between the observation year and the CPRT training period (p=.002), and this increased engagement maintained during a follow-up year (after CPRT training; p=.001). Students in the CPRT group demonstrated significantly more progress on social goals (t (64)=3.60, p<.001) than the observation group. Additional moderators, including the impact of race/ethnicity, are currently being examined.


Results indicate CPRT training for teachers can lead to improved student outcomes, especially in the area of student engagement and social development, for students with ASD. Classroom quality and teacher experience may moderate outcomes, providing recommendations for potential prerequisite training needed prior to EBP implementation.