Applied Verbal Behavior

Verbal Behavior approaches are based on the work of B.F. Skinner as he described the functional use of language or "why people talk", from a behavioral perspective. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, pragmatic or functional use of language is often a primary concern. Applied Verbal Behavior is:  


  1. A way of analyzing language according to the various functions served to the "speaker" and the "listener".
  2. An emphasis on teaching children to request the things they desire throughout language instruction.
  3. Capturing and contriving situations that will increase the child's motivation to learn.
  4. A set of transfer procedures to teach the child to use language to serve all functions including requesting, receptive (comprehension), labeling, and talking about things when they are not present.
  5. Teaching procedures that help the children learn "intraverbal links" or connections between related words so that language may be used in a functional, flexible manner.
  6. A set of specific teaching procedures involving the provision and gradual removal of prompts to maintain successful learning.
  7. An emphasis on the importance of language instruction in all of the places and situations in which you want the language to occur in the future. 
  8. Gradual addition of intensive teaching sessions to the natural environment training designed to either:
  • A) Initially teach skills to children having difficulty learning in the natural environment. Once skills are learned in an intensive teaching situation they must be generalized to the natural environment before they can be considered "mastered"'. OR  
  • B) To increase the speed and rate of response for skills a child has learned in the natural environment as well as to teach specific skills that may be difficult to teach in the natural environment.

 ** While not exclusively part of VB, identifying the functions of negative behaviors and using appropriate strategies to address them are part of any good Verbal Behavior Program.


Tracy Vail, Speech Language Pathologist, Autism Consultant
Tracy Vail
Co-Owner / Speech/Language Pathologist/Autism Consultant
Erin Maher
Erin Maher
Speech/Language Pathologist
Ashley Petrilyak at Let's Talk
Ashley Petrilyak
Speech/Language Pathologist
Jean Jarrett, MS, CCC/SLP
Jean Jarrett
Speech/Language Pathologist

Featured Blog Posts

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By Tracy Vail, MS, CCC-SLP, Autism Consultant and Heather Forbes, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA There is currently a great deal of debate in the field of speech-language pathology about the kinds of words that should be taught first to nonverbal (or minimally verbal) individuals with communication impairments...


Tracy ,

I just want to thank you.  I've been in many therapist offices now and have met many therapists, but our experience yesterday was a first.  You made me (and I'm sure Jordyn too) feel like we were the only people...

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