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Verbal Behavior

Verbal Behavior

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Verbal Behavior

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  1. Verbal Behavior An introduction to verbal behavior and its relationship to applied behavior analysis Grafton Integrated Health Network Megan Sullivan Kirby, M.Ed. Behavior Therapist

  2. Agenda What is verbal behavior? What is the relationship between applied behavior analysis (ABA) and verbal behavior (VB)? What are the key components of VB?

  3. What is verbal behavior (VB)?

  4. The relationship between ABA and VB Applied Behavior Analysis Verbal Behavior Analyzes behavior (measureable, observable acts) through systematic, direct assessments Applies principles of behavior to modify behavior (teach new skills, decrease magnitude, increase responding) Data, data, data! Uses standard teaching procedures found in ABA methodology Data collection! Use of discrete trial and natural environment teaching Individual assessment, functional analyses

  5. Verbal Behavior as an ABA Technology • Use of prompting and fading procedures • Use of shaping and chaining procedures • Use of reinforcement schedules (differential, intermittent, ratio and interval) • Extinction and reinforcement procedures • Errorless learning • Task analysis (e.g., ABLLS-R and social interactions) • Individualized based upon client’s strengths and preferences • Frequent opportunities to respond • Peer and social interaction Grafton Integrated Health Network already utilizes these strategies in programming and service delivery!

  6. History of Verbal Behavior • In 1957, B.F. Skinner wrote the book, Verbal Behavior. The idea that language could be taught was novel. • Verbal Behavior was not well received in the field of psycholinguistics. • B.F. Skinner was primarily interested in how the speaker comes to say things.

  7. B.F. Skinner and Verbal Behavior • The emphasis of verbal behavior is on the speaker’s behavior • Verbal behavior places its focus on the function of language, not the structure of language (e.g., Nativist approach, Chomsky) • A structural account of language focuses on words as the individual and formal units of language, but… • B.F. Skinner identified the formal units of language as VERBAL OPERANTS

  8. Jack Michael and Verbal Behavior • The research and writing of Jack Michael has created the basis of work now carried out in the field of verbal behavior and applied behavior analysis. • He published the textbook, Concepts and Principles of Behavior Analysis, which is considered to be a necessary text for any person interested in ABA and VB. Photographs available from

  9. Others in the field of VB:Authors of Teaching Language to Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities • Mark Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA, was a student and colleague of Jack Michael at Western Michigan University. • Founder and past editor of journal, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior • Chapter in 2007 Cooper et al. text, Applied Behavior Analysis, 2ed. • Author of VB-MAPP assessment, co-author of ABLLS • Jim Partington, Ph.D., BCBA-D, was also a student of Jack Michael, but later went on to work on his doctoral degree in psychology at Florida State. • Past editor of Sundberg’s journal, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior • Founder of STARS Clinic in California • Co-author of ABLLS

  10. Others in the field of VB • Patrick McGreevy, Ph.D., BCBA, was a student of Ogden Lindsley and received degrees in both education and psychology. • Founder of Journal of Precision Teaching • Vince Carbone, Ph.D., BCBA • Director of The Carbone Clinic in Rockland County, New York • Prior editor of journal, Analysis of Verbal Behavior • Discrete trial teaching of VB

  11. So… Where Are We Now? We know the key players in the field of verbal behavior, but what have they taught us about verbal behavior itself? Language is a behavior that serves functions specific to the speaker and situation at a certain moment in time. Language can be taught. If a speaker masters the verbal operants, they are fluent communicators and experience greater access to the world around them.

  12. What are VERBAL OPERANTS? Verbal operants are the units of analysis for verbal behavior. Verbal operants include the speaker’s response, and the antecedent and consequent conditions which control the response itself.

  13. The Verbal Operants

  14. What does “Car” look like in each operant area? • Mand • Tact • Echoic • Intraverbal • Receptive • Textual

  15. Mands • Mands are the verbal operants that are under the control of the individual’s motivation • Requests, demands, commands • Usually, mands are for preferred, wanted items or activities • Being thirsty and signing, “water” • In van, pointing to radio (mand for music) AntecedentBehaviorConsequence desire/MO mand access reinforcer

  16. Tacts • Tacts are operants that identify objects, actions, events, attributes or other observable conditions in the presence of those conditions • Labeling, naming • Tacts must have a non-verbal stimulus, a verbal behavior (pointing, naming, matching word to picture), and are usually followed by a socially-mediated consequence (teacher praise) AntecedentBehaviorConsequence Non-verbal Tact Automatic or stimulus social praise

  17. Codics and Duplics • Codics are verbal operants that have formal similarity to the verbal stimuli, but no point-to-point correspondence • Hearing the word “car” and writing “c-a-r” • Duplics are verbal operants that have both formal similarity and point-to-point correspondence • Hear “car” and say “car” (echoic/vocal imitation) • Motor imitation of sign language • Has 1:1 correspondence AntecedentBehaviorConsequence verbal Echoic or social praise stimulus Textual

  18. Intraverbals • Intraverbals are answering “wh-” questions or having a conversation so that what you say is determined by what the other person says. • Fill-in-the-blank, answer a question, response to a statement made by another person AntecedentBehaviorConsequence Verbal stimulus answer does social: praisenot match the academic grade, antecedent etc.

  19. Let’s try again: What does “Water” look like in each operant area? • Mand • Tact • Echoic • Intraverbal • Receptive • Textual

  20. Now, let's try some examples… Sarah, A case study in verbal operants What verbal operant is this?

  21. 1. Read the case study provided in the training packet. Thinking points: Sarah’s preferred method of communicating needs and wants Sarah’s ability to look at and observe ongoing events around her Sarah’s motor imitation skills Sarah’s spontaneous language Supports and instruction needed to increase her access to social interactions and academic instruction in the general education setting.

  22. Case Study Discussion Questions Mand Tact Receptive Language Echoic (vocal duplic) Codic Intraverbal • What mands can Sarah perform? • How do you know they are mands? • Does Sarah have motor imitation skills? • Provide some examples of receptive language skills she exhibits. • Is Sarah able to tact? • Does Sarah have intraverbal skills? • Why?

  23. What verbal operant is this? The teacher says, ‘You can bounce a _____.’ The learner signs “ball.” The teacher provides a reinforcing item to the learner.

  24. What verbal operant is this? The teacher says, ‘ball.’ The learner signs “ball.” The teacher provides a reinforcing item to the learner.

  25. What verbal operant is this? The teacher says, ‘ball.’ The learner says, “ball.” The teacher provides a reinforcing item to the learner.

  26. What verbal operant is this? The learner says “cat” in the presence of a picture of a cat.

  27. What verbal operant is this? The learner says “cat” in the presence of a dog.

  28. What verbal operant is this? The learner says “cat” in the presence of a cat that he/she has a history of chasing after and trying to dress up in doll clothes.

  29. Questions, Discussion Thank you for your time and attention!