Our Approach

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. Some of the basic verbal operants are outlined in the diagram on the right »

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)

What is ABA and what is an ABA Programme?

What exactly is Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA)?

Applied Behaviour Analysis is the science of changing socially significant behaviour. It is the application of principles derived from the science to change a person’s behaviour in a way that benefits them and others around them. Behaviour analysts seek to understand the relationships between the environment and behaviour in order to change people’s lives by teaching them skills that help them achieve their personal outcomes.

Typically developing children learn without intervention as the world around them provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills. Children with autism learn less easily from the environment. They have the potential to learn, but it takes a very structured environment, one where conditions are optimised for acquiring the same skills typical children learn “naturally.” ABA provides us with the tools to structure the environment to enable children with autism to learn.

Decades of research have validated treatments based on ABA to support its efficacy in teaching young children with autism and other related learning difficulties. ABA is the only scientifically validated treatment for ASD and is recommended by the U.S Surgeon General. As with all educational fields it’s a dynamic field and continues to develop with the ever growing research.

How does it work in practice?

We can provide you with a programme that targets lots of skill areas (e.g. communication, play, toilet training etc.) or you can choose to work on 1 skill or problem behaviour (e.g. reducing aggression towards others, tolerating aversive situations such as going to the hairdressers etc.).

Typically, skills are broken down to their simplest components and taught through a system of reinforcement. Prompts (little hints) are provided as necessary when the child is learning a new skill. As a skill is mastered the prompts are faded until your child can perform the task independently. Ultimately we want to generalise every taught skill so that your child can perform independently across a variety of settings and people.

ABA is a step-by-step approach and it is data-based which means your child’s progress is well documented. This documentation is reviewed regularly so that we can amend the programme or behaviour intervention plan and ensure that as your child progresses our programmes are adapted and developed according to their needs.

How do we decide what skills to teach?

Your Keys For Learning supervisor will have an in-depth chat with your during the initial assessment about what your goals are for your child. To ensure your child’s programme is tailored to their needs we use a variety of detailed assessments. Primarily, we use the Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), The Assessment of Basic Language and Learner Skills – Revised and Essentials for Living.

For more information please contact us.