The Difference Between PRT and ABA – Teaching Children With Autism to Make Eye Contact

Hi, My name is Ehud Friedgut, and I’m a father of 2 children with autism. Today I want to show you how to turn an ABA trial into a PRT learning opportunity.  When my kids were younger, we worked with ABA- applied Behavioral analysis.
In the next video, you will see my son Hillel, learning to look at his therapist after she calls his name. 

so she calls him “Hillel”; that’s the stimulus
He looks at her- that the behavior
and she plays him the music he loves and praises him – reinforcement 
Let’s see this step by step.

How would I tweak it to make it natural and developmental, like in PRT -a behavioral intervention that is naturalistic, and developmental  – I would stop the music as the therapist did. 

In order to make it naturalistic, we have to understand what Hillel wants. He wants the music to continue playing.  At this specific learning moment, the natural thing to teach Hillel is to ask for the music to continue. Since we are concentrating on teaching him eye contact (and not focusing on speech) we should try to teach him to use eye contact to request what he wants.

The developmental skill we need to teach him is to look at the object and look at me (or the therapist), which is a nonverbal way to request. It is called Joint attention for request (we will discuss the other facets of joint attention in later posts).
Let’s focus on how we can teach him to look in order to request. Let’s focus on the moment the music stopped. 

To request, a 1-year-old child would use joint attention, look at the object, and then look at the person he needs to ask for it to play. Now, consider the scene. Hillel is looking at the music-player (sorry, it is a smartphone, we try not to encourage screen time in this blog).

The therapist called his name, but I want to teach Hillel to look at an object and look at the person’s face, so just calling him will “Hillel” is missing the point.

What will be the best way to teach him to look at an object and then look at a person in order to make a request?

The therapist should prompt his looking by lowering her head and entering his visual field. Once he looks at her eyes- then she should play the music. This is what natural means in this context – looking at the therapist in order for the music to continue, as opposed to looking because she called his name and later awarding him with the music.

Why is it developmental?
Because experiencing that joint attention is useful for making requests, is an important factor of speech development.

I hope you found this helpful. We invite you to have a look at our other posts.


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