Verbal Behavior is all about language. It’s about communication. Within any early intervention or ABA program, a major (if not THE major) goal is to increase communication, in whatever form that takes for the learner. Verbal Behavior, then, is a huge and vital component of early intervention.
What sets Verbal Behavior apart is that it focuses on functional communication. It looks at language based on what it gets the learner. Instead of learning nouns, adverbs, and sentence structure, we look at mands, tacts, echoics, and intraverbals. These things actually serve a functional purpose for your child. So what are they?
- Mand– A mand is basically a request. This is how a learner gets what they need or want.
- Tact– A tact is a label. This is how a learner defines things in their environment.
- Echoic– An echoic is what it sounds like – an echo. A learner can repeat back what they have heard.
- Intraverbal– Intraverbals are the building blocks of social communication or conversation, and involve responding to other words. The learner can answer questions about things that they cannot see at that moment, for example.
That sounds very technical and it can be, which is why you need a well-trained professional for Verbal Behavior training and intervention. But these technical terms (called the verbal operants) can be explained further to show the value to your child. As a parent, you want your child to be able to communicate with others- and for your child to have an effect on the listener. That means whomever they talk to will know how to respond to your child.
By learning to mand (request), your child will learn how to get help accessing what they want and need. They can request their favorite toy, activity, or food, or communicate a need such as hunger or thirst. By learning to tact (label), your child will learn how to effectively communicate about things in their environment that they can see, touch, and even mand for (request).
Echoics are crucial for teaching these verbal operants, the building blocks of language. Echoics are often used in early intervention to model simple mands, tacts, and intraverbals. Then as your child masters more of their language targets, echoics can be used to model expanded responses to teach your child even higher levels of communication, longer responses, and even early conversation skills. These early conversation skills are called intraverbals. These include crucial personal and safety information, such as being able to answer questions like your name, age, parents’ names, and phone numbers.
Learning to communicate is a primary goal for all early learners- regardless of skill level. Verbal Behavior helps us look at communication and language in a way that actually works FOR the learner. The goal here is to teach your child how to communicate, and not just how to talk. We help learners find their own voice in communicating their wants, needs, and thoughts to lead the most productive life possible.
If you have questions regarding your child’s language development, your BCBA will be your best resource. If you are looking to receive Early Intervention services contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see if there is a provider in your area.
By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D; Leanne Page, M.Ed, BCBA of bSci21Media, LLC