“Autism… offers us a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that might otherwise pass us by.” – Quote by Dr. Colin Zimbleman, an American Clinical Psychologist.
Verbal Behavior (also known as VB) therapy teaches communication and language. It is derived from the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the theories of behaviorist B.F. Skinner. This therapy teaches individuals on the spectrum to learn language by linking words with their outcomes. The individual is taught that learning a word or words enables them to communicate their thoughts, challenges, needs, and interests. The therapy is not focused on words being markers only (dog, cycle, and so on). Instead, it focuses on the reasons for the usage of words and their usefulness in making requests & sharing thoughts. A child can be verbal and not vocal. Verbal refers to anyway a child communicates. This can be through Gestures, sign language, AAC, and Picture exchange to name a few.
Language is categorised into types, called “operants.” Each operant has a separate function. Verbal Behavior therapy specializes in four-word types:
Mand: A request, for example saying “Cookie,” to request for the food item.
Tact: A word for sharing an experience or drawing attention, like “ship” to indicate a ship when spotted in the water.
Intraverbal: A word to reply to a question, like “Which school do you attend?”. The reply being “Summer Field School”
Echoic: A repeated, or echoed, word, such as “Cookie?” “Cookie!” This is important as imitating will help the student learn.
Verbal Behavior Therapy helps:
Young kids who are beginning to learn language
Older children with delayed or disordered language
Individuals who sign or use visual supports
Verbal Behavior therapy starts with teaching mands as the primary type of language. For example, the person learns the association of a word with a desired outcome. After the person makes a request, the therapist repeats the word and offers the desired object. The therapist repeatedly uses the word in the same context to reinforce the message, In the beginning, the person makes a request by any means including non-verbal communication (such as pointing). The association between the request and the desired outcome is gradually reinforced over time.
Verbal Behavior therapy utilizes a strategy called “errorless learning.” Errorless teaching relies on instant & regular prompts to ensure the person delivers the right reply every time. Over time, these prompts are scaled-down and eventually done away with.
Both VB therapy & ABA therapy have the same techniques primarily. VB & ABA can be combined to achieve intended communication goals.