Verbal Behavior in ABA

Verbal Behavior in ABA

Miriam Newmark M.Ed, BCBA, LBA - Clinical Director
June 2022

"Verbal Behavior" is an application of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), coined by B.F. Skinner. Behavior analysts believe that language is a learned behavior and can be taught by pairing words with the child's motivation. Verbal behavior focuses on teaching children that words help them gain access to things they want rather than focus on the forms of the words. In verbal behavior, we classify language into four different "operants"

Mand- from the word "demand"- to request an item. Saying "Cookie" to ask for a cookie is a type of mand.

Tact- label items in the environment- say "cookie" when presented with real cookie and asked "what is that?"

Intraverbal- a word used in response to words. Asking a question "Where do you live?" is an example of an intraverbal

Echoic- repeating/echoing a word. Echoics are important for developing language.


Teaching mand is typically the first step in teaching language. We use the child's motivation to shape mands and begin by reinforcing any approximation to the mand.

For example, if a child wants a cookie, and says "coo," the behavior technician will repeat the word "cookie" and then give a piece of the cookie to the child. Children learn that using language provides meaningful results!


At Blue Balloon, we focus on verbal behavior in our Early Intervention.  We understand the importance of teaching language to give children a "voice" and way to get their wants and needs met. 

Verbal Behavior (VB) is the behavioral analysis of language which focuses on the function of language not just the form. We look at language as a behavior that can be directly taught and increased through reinforcement.


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