Verbal Behavior: A Series

This week is the start of a new blog series about the specific approach of behavior therapy we use: Verbal Behavior. There is a lot to break down when we talk about Verbal Behavior, so we will be doing several posts about what it is and how to effectively use it in therapy. The first thing we want to talk about is a brief overview of Verbal Behavior. We used Mary Barbera’s The Verbal Behavior Approach to help us.

The Verbal Behavior Approach to therapy was founded by combining principles of ABA with findings of B.F. Skinner in his 1957 book, Verbal Behavior. By combining these approaches, we stress the importance of language when giving therapy. Therapists who practice Verbal Behavior work toward enhancing language through teaching either sign or verbal language, whatever is most appropriate for the child. We teach language as a behavior and reinforce any approximations of language, like “ju” for “juice.” The child then works toward saying the full word and gets the most reinforcement for producing the full word.

Typically when people think of ABA, they think of the work of Dr. Ivar Lovaas. He did extensive research on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). and their responses to behavior therapy. His main approach was the use of discrete-trial teaching. This method uses individual trials of teaching, such as stacking one block as one trial. This method proved to be highly effective in children with ASD. The only drawback is that it is very strict and difficult for parents to replicate outside of therapy. The Verbal Behavior approach offers a method that is still necessary to follow but easier to replicate in naturalistic settings, such as school and home.

For this series on the Verbal Behavior Approach, we will be taking small parts of the practice as a whole and explaining them in each post. We hope this makes what we do for children and their families more clear! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Barbera, M.L., & Rasmussen, T. (2007). The verbal behavior approach: how to teach children with autism and related disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley.