At a glance: Responsive teaching
Type of therapy
Developmental
The claim
Improves communication, cognitive and social-emotional skills
Suitable for
Children up to six years of age with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or developmental problems
Research rating
Find out more about this rating system in our FAQs.
Some research shows positive effects, more research needed.
Time
Estimate of the total time for family in hours per week and duration
20+
Cost
Estimate of cost to family per session/item or week
$0-30
The program isn’t offered in Australia, so there’s no information available on costs.
This program isn’t currently available in Australia. It might be offered as part of a service within Australia or in a modified form.

What is responsive teaching?

Responsive teaching is a program that teaches parents how to support the development of their children’s communication, cognitive, social and emotional skills by being more responsive in the way they interact with their children.

The program’s developers also refer to responsive teaching as a relationship-focused intervention.

Who is responsive teaching for?

Responsive teaching is designed for children under six years old who have developmental or social-emotional problems.

What is responsive teaching used for?

Responsive teaching is used to improve three areas of child development – thinking, communication skills, and social and emotional skills. It aims to improve these by teaching children several pivotal behaviours.

Where does responsive teaching come from?

Responsive teaching was developed in the US in 2007 as a parenting program for parents of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delays.

What is the idea behind responsive teaching?

This program is based on the idea that responsive interactions between children and parents are an essential basis for development.

What does responsive teaching involve?

Parents and children spend one hour a week with a therapist trained in this approach, either at a centre or at home. The sessions train parents in specific techniques like:

  • taking turns when interacting
  • matching what they do with children’s development levels
  • being warm and expressive when interacting with children.

These techniques aim to improve children’s use of pivotal behaviours and support children’s development and learning.

The therapist and parents also develop family action plans, which are made up of responsive teaching strategies and other activities to do at home.

Cost considerations

Responsive teaching isn’t offered in Australia, so no information about cost is available.

Does responsive teaching work?

Some research has shown positive effects on child learning and development from this therapy, but more high-quality studies are needed.

Who practices responsive teaching?

Professionals can become Certified Responsive Teaching Providers by completing training through Responsive Teaching International Outreach in the United States.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

Initially, parents must complete a two-day workshop called Getting Started with Responsive Teaching. Parents deliver responsive teaching with the support of a trained professional, so involvement is high.

Where can you find a practitioner?

Responsive teaching is currently available only in the United States and Canada.

If you’re interested in therapies that are similar to responsive teaching, you could talk with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child’s options.

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Last updated or reviewed
25-11-2016

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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