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Verbal Behavior Therapy

Another behavioral (based on the principles of ABA) therapy method with a different approach to the acquisition and function of language is Verbal Behavior (VB) therapy.

What is VB?

verbal behaviorIn his 1957 book, "Verbal Behavior," B.F. Skinner (see previous section on ABA) detailed a functional analysis of language. He described all of the parts of language as a system. Verbal Behavior uses Skinner's analysis as a basis for teaching language and shaping

behavior. Skinner theorized that all language could be grouped into a set of units, which he called operants. Each operant identified by Skinner serves a different function. The most important of these operants, or units, he named echoics, mands, tacts and intraverbals: The function of a "mand" is to request or obtain what is wanted. For example, the child learns to say the word "cookie" when he is interested in obtaining a cookie. When given the cookie, the word is reinforced and will be used again in the same context. In a VB program the child is taught to ask for the cookie anyway he can (vocally, sign language, etc.). If the child can echo the work he will be motivated to do so to obtain the desired object.

The operant for labeling an object is called a "tact." For example, the child says the word "cookie" when seeing a picture and is thus labeling the item. In VB, more importance is placed on the mand than on the tact, theorizing that "using language" is different from "knowing language."

An "intraverbal" describes conversational or social, language. Intraverbals allow children to discuss something that isn't present. For example, the child finishes the sentence, "I'm baking…" with the intraverbal fill-in "Cookies." Intraverbals also include responses to questions from another person, usually answers to "wh-" questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why?). Intraverbals are strengthened with social reinforcement.

VB and classic ABA use similar behavioral formats to work with children. VB is designed to motivate a child to learn language by developing a connection between a word and its value. VB may be used as an extension of the communication section of an ABA program.

Who provides VB?

VB is provided by VB-trained psychologists, special education teachers, speech therapists and other providers.

What is the intensity of most VB programs?

VB programs usually involve 30 or more hours per week of scheduled therapy. Families are encouraged to use VB principals in their daily lives.

Where can I find more information on VB?

Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies

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