How Verbal Behavior Analysis Helps Children With Language Deficits

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Verbal Behavior Analysis, or VBA, is a language intervention strategy based on the work of B.F. Skinner. An American psychologist, social philosopher and inventor, Skinner was a leading figure in the branch of psychology known as Behaviorism. This school of psychology derives from “the belief that behaviors can be measured, trained and changed,” according to Psychology Today.

With this in mind, Verbal Behavior Analysis can be a powerful approach to addressing the language deficits of children on the Autism spectrum.

Autism is a developmental disorder that makes it difficult for the children and adults who have the condition to communicate and interact with others. But Skinner posited that language is learned behavior mediated by others. He introduced the terms "Mand," "Tact," and "Intraverbal" to describe three different kinds of verbal behaviors.

Defining the Terms

"Manding" is either "demanding" or "commanding" others for desired objects or activities. "Tacting" is identifying and naming objects, and "Intraverbals" are utterances (language) mediated by other language, often called "pragmatics" by speech and language pathologists.

What Occurs During VBA Treatment?

In VBA treatment, a therapist sits with an individual child and presents preferred items. The child will receive the preferred item when he or she imitates the therapist and mands or requests the item. The therapist will ask a child for a number of responses, often in quick succession, known as "massed trials" or "discrete trial training." The therapist will build on success by having the child select from more than one preferred item, by demanding clearer or more audible approximations of the word in order receive the preferred item (called shaping) and mixing it up with other preferred activities.

This first step is Once a child has exhibited success in manding, especially manding in phrases, the therapist will move ahead with tacting. When a child succeeds in learning and naming familiar objects, the therapist will build on that with "intraverbals," naming relationships.

For example, the therapist will ask, "Jeremy, where is the hat?" The child will then respond, "The hat is under the chair." The therapist will help the child generalize these verbal skills to a variety of settings, such as school, in public and at home with parents or caregivers.

Verbal Behavior Analysis is also known as: ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, when used for language.

How VBA Differs From ABA

The MyAutismClinic website states that ABA and VBA, though related, are not the same. What’s the difference between the two?

“ABA is the science that uses principles of behavior like reinforcement, extinction, punishment, stimulus control, motivation to teach new behaviors, modify and/or terminate maladaptive behaviors,” the MyAutismClinic site states. “Verbal Behavior or VB is simply the application of these scientific principles to language.”

The site states that some people believe that ABA is more efficient than VBA, but this is a misconception. “A well-trained professional should make use of the principles of ABA in all areas of the child’s development including language,” according to MyAutismClinic. VBA is simply a comprehensive ABA approach to language.

Examples: During VBA therapy sessions with Miss Mandy, Jeremy will point to the picture of the candy and say, "Candy, please." This is an example of manding.

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Webster, Jerry. "How Verbal Behavior Analysis Helps Children With Language Deficits." ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/verbal-behavior-analysis-3111283. Webster, Jerry. (2016, August 23). How Verbal Behavior Analysis Helps Children With Language Deficits. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/verbal-behavior-analysis-3111283 Webster, Jerry. "How Verbal Behavior Analysis Helps Children With Language Deficits." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/verbal-behavior-analysis-3111283 (accessed January 20, 2018).