What is Verbal Behaviour (VB)?

The term Verbal Behaviour (VB) refers to an application of ABA which focuses on teaching language, based on Skinner’s (1957) classification of language into verbal operants. Skinner proposed classifying language according to its functions e.g. the word ‘biscuit’ might be used to ask for one or to label one. Your child may be able to use a word in one context but not another. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to teach words across all of the functions to ensure a full understanding of the word. 

A lot of discussion exists in the world of autism regarding different methodologies, approaches and theories. Often there is confusion between the terms ABA and VB in autism treatment, but much of this is unfounded. Far from being a distinct field, the term ‘VB approach’ merely suggests that an ABA programme includes emphasis on Skinner’s functional nature of language and harnessing a child’s motivation to help them learn. At Keys for Learning, our programmes incorporate the teaching of verbal behaviour based on Skinner’s analysis of language, as well as procedures such as:

  • Pivotal Response Training; focusing on ‘pivotal’ areas of a child’s development
  • Errorless learning; using a zero second delay prompt to avoid your child making errors
  • Discrete Trial Teaching; teaching in simple and highly structured steps
  • Natural Environment Teaching; teaching targets that are specifically related to your child’s current motivation
  • Precision Teaching; teaching to fluency (i.e. responding accurately at speed)