A Pivotal Need…

Despite scientific advances in treatment for autism, most families across the United States do not have access to quality autism services, let alone gold standard Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention (NDBI) models.  There are a number of reasons for this concerning reality, including the limited number of trained autism clinicians around the country, the rising cost of services, geographic distance from autism service providers, and difficulties in effectively and efficiently training a large number of people in the latest treatment models. 

To accomplish the goal of distributing a highly effective intervention to the general public, this Department of Defense-funded study leverages the wide-spread use of smartphones nationwide. PI Ty Vernon and his UCSB research study team developed Pivotal, a smartphone app designed to train parents of young children with autism in an autism treatment model known as Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT). Forty-eight families will be recruited nationwide to participate in this trial.

PRT is a well-known, scientifically supported treatment that focuses on using child motivation, play-based lessons, and parent involvement to target the language skills and social engagement of children with autism. The Pivotal App offers eight interactive lessons in PRT, consisting of video examples, instructional slides, and brief quizzes. Participants include parents of a child (aged 1-4.5 years) with autism and significant language delay.  

The use of this technology will ensure that families can access gold standard autism treatment regardless of their geographic location, work schedules, or financial constraints. If successful, the UCSB teams plan to conduct a larger nationwide study and ultimately render the app available in smartphone app stores so that families everywhere can train themselves in this treatment approach.

For more details on this study and information on how to enroll, please visit  https://education.ucsb.edu/autism/research/prtapp

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