The science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is founded on behavioral principles (Baer, Wolf, and Risley, 1968). All ABA programs abide by these principles to assess and treat behavior based upon function. Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB) is a term sometimes used to refer to ABA programming that assesses and attends to the development of verbal behavior as described in B.F. Skinners book titled Verbal Behavior, (1957). Since Skinners book was published in 1957 advances in research and application continue to support Skinners analysis of verbal behavior (Eshleman, 2004; Sundberg, 1991, 1998). Most of this research can be found in The Analysis of Verbal Behavior journal. Effective ABA programming assesses maladaptive or problem behavior based upon function, as well as, language based upon function.
Verbal behavior involves social interaction between a speaker and a listener, and includes both vocal and non-vocal behavior. It analyzes the variables that control different types of verbal responses. Most traditional language approaches differentiate between receptive (listener skills) and expressive (vocal) language. Skinners functional analysis of verbal behavior further analyzes vocal behavior according to its function. Mand (request), Tact (label) and Intraverbal (talking about things in the absence of those things) are all components of expressive language. Focusing on the reasons we say words rather than the form of the response allows us to more effectively teach functional language skills to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may label (tact) many objects or pictures of objects in their environment but may not be able to request (mand) the same object or talk about the object with related terms (i.e. Look its flying!- pointing at an airplane.) Conversational skills are also difficult for children on the autism spectrum. Conversations are functionally comprised primarily of requests for information (mands) and responses that are not related to things directly visible in the environment (intraverbals). In addition to the basic applied behavior analysis procedures, a childs existing verbal behavior and the barriers that are preventing it from developing at a typical rate are assessed and teaching strategies are implemented based upon Skinners verbal operants. Application of Skinners analysis of verbal behavior continues to add to the existing gains in autism treatment (Sundberg and Michael, 2001).
B. F. Skinners Verbal Operants:
Mand: Requesting; asking, demanding, implying or stating a persons wants or needs.
I need water!
Where is the water? (Mand for information)
Receptive: Broad term that encompasses many skills that involve listening and understanding what is said. Following directions or complying with others requests are examples of listener skills.
Sit down. (Listener sits)
Wheres the cat? (Listener touches or points to the cat.)
What says moo? (Listener points to the cow.)
Tact: Labeling or naming an item, action or property of an item that is PRESENT.
Whats that? Child says Horse. (Horse is a tact.)
How does this kitty feel? Child says Soft. (Soft is a tact.)
What says choo-choo? Child looks at the train and says Train. (Train is the tact.)
Intraverbal: A response to something a person says which relates to an item, action or property of an item that is NOT PRESENT.
Winnie the ?????? Child fills in ???Pooh.
When does it snow???? ???Winter.???
What did you see on the way home???? Child says, ???Choo-choo.???
Where did we go yesterday???? Child says, ???The zoo.???
Echoic: Repeating exactly the same thing another person says.
Apple??? Child says, ???Apple.???
What do you want???? Child says, ???What do you want.???
Motor Imitation (Mimetic): Imitating the motor movement of another individual.
Clapping action Child claps
Raise hands and wiggle fingers Child raises hands and wiggles fingers.
Textual: Reading without any implications that the reader understands or comprehends what is being read. Reading comprehension involves many additional functions of language such as receptive language, intraverbals, etc.
Transcription: Writing or spelling words that are spoken.