Verbal Behavior

Verbal Behavior Icon

Verbal Behavior (VB) is the behavioral analysis of language which focuses on the function of language not just the form. We look at language as a behavior that can be directly taught and increased through reinforcement. We focus on the child’s motivation and program language objectives in a natural, developmental hierarchy utilizing tools such as the VBMAPP and EFL.


Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). ABA has decades of research in peer-reviewed journals to support its efficacy and has become the gold standard in the treatment of Autism and other Developmental Disabilities.

Verbal Behavior is the behavioral analysis of language by its formal and functional properties resulting in a classification system that allows for the identification of functionally different types of language. In addition to listener discriminations, Skinner presented the following types of speaker behaviors: echoic (and motor imitation), mand (request), tact, intraverbal, textual and transcriptive (spelling), (Skinner, 1957). At CTAC, we look at language as a behavior that can be directly taught and increased through reinforcement. We believe the ability to communicate, through vocal or augmentative communication, is one of the most important life skills to be taught and is the emphasis of all of our programming. Tools such as VB-MAPP (Sundberg) and EFL (McGreevy) help us to identify specific language objectives, and give us the means to create a personalized curriculum for your child.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a research based method of teaching skills in a highly-structured manner. This allows for a high number of specific training trials. The Verbal Behavior approach to DTT includes the following teaching procedures that help to reduce the value of escape motivated behaviors that may arise from a higher rate of demands: errorless teaching, mixing and varying verbal operants, pairing, variable ratio schedules of immediate reinforcement, short ITI's and others.

Natural Environment Training (NET), developed by Drs. Sundberg & Partington and based on Skinner's Verbal Behavior, requires the therapist to focus on the child's interests and actions as a guide to their language instruction. It’s conducted in a typical daily environment, which allows for more opportunities to verbally engage, helps generalize target behaviors more quickly, and promotes more spontaneous verbal behavior. Children may also exhibit fewer negative behaviors because of the focus on motivation and the use of consequences more directly related to that motivation (Hall & Sundberg, 1987; Koegal, Koegal, & Surratt, 1992; Stafford, Sundberg, & Braam, 1988).

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