Verbal Behavior Project
FA M I LY H A N D B O O K
A Collaborative Project
Supported by the
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Administered by Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11
Welcome Letter to
During the school year, I am reminded of something a professor once said during my undergradu
ate work. She said, don’t ever forget that “A child is a child is a child.” At the time I believed that the
statement may have appeared to be simplistic, but I was to learn some years later how profound that
After graduation I started working with children with disabilities and was fortunate enough to
begin by going to the homes of those children from three years through five years old. I learned so
much from families, and, of course, the child. But what my professor said held true: “A child is a
child is a child.” Each child is, and always will be, fascinatingly different in his or her own way. That
was my challenge of finding the strategies and methods that unlocked those wonderful channels to
I also gained great respect for an important law now referred to as the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA ’04). Back then it was Public Law 94 -142, IDEA. The
intent remained that every child with a disability was an individual and shall have a free and appro
priate public education. The law didn’t just happen. It came from the dedication of parents and fami
lies of children with disabilities advocating and contributing to get the law passed through Congress.
Today not only that law, but the No Child Left Behind Act and IDEA ’04, have a major tenet: that
all children shall receive a free and appropriate public education. The word “all” means “all” and in
this example it means just as it is stated: that no child is left behind. I would also extend thanks to
Supporting Autism and Families Everywhere (S.A.F.E.) for taking an idea and making it happen with
the start of the PA Verbal Behavior Project.
Welcome to an exciting time of continuing to work with educators, families, and as our lead
Behavior Analyst and others have stated, to making a difference in the lives of children on the autism
spectrum. Have a wonderful and productive year.
Jill Lichty, M.S., CCC
Table of Contents
• Role of Families in the PA Verbal Behavior Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
• Summary Sheet 2005-2006 School Year . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
• Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
• What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
• What is Verbal Behavior (VB)?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
• How is VB implemented in a school setting? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
• What is the Behavioral Language Assessment Form (BLAF)? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
• What is the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS)?. . . . . . 16
• Important Terms to Know . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
• Behavior Reduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
• Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
• APPENDIX 1. ~ BLAF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
• APPENDIX 2. ~ ABLLS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
• APPENDIX 3. ~ Reinforcer Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
• APPENDIX 4. ~ Glossary of terms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
The Role of Parents
and Families in the
The experience of a family that includes an The people who make up the PA Verbal
individual (or individuals) living with autism Behavior Project realize that the families of chil
should be appreciated and respected. To live dren in the classrooms that we serve are a
with a child with autism means having to plan diverse group. Such diversity means that families
and adapt in ways that can be quite different and parents have a great deal to offer. The role
from what other families face. Those who know of parents and guardians is highly respected by
people with autism understand the unique ways the PA Verbal Behavior Project. The Project staff
in which the behaviors associated with autism is committed to helping families, and families
affect day-to-day life. Children with autism show have the specific educational needs of their chil
the same need for social interaction and affection dren addressed through effective educational
as any other person, but the way social interest practice. The development and implementation
and affection is demonstrated may not be as of effective programming requires a cooperative
readily identified to those who haven’t lived with approach.
a child with autism. A “lack of interest in social
interaction” is just, as most parents of children The PA Verbal Behavior Project is staffed by
with autism will say, an “apparent” lack of inter consultants who provide guidance on effective
est. Children with autism need loving interactions instruction for students with autism. We are
like any other child. Likewise, parents of children proud that more than a third of our consultants
with autism are keenly aware of how their chil are also parents of children with autism. These
dren communicate: their child may not communi parent-consultants bring a perspective to the
cate as much and the style of communication Verbal Behavior Project that ensures a family-
may not be effective with the larger world of lis centered approach.
teners, but the children do indeed communicate.
Families of children with autism have the same Initial efforts to establish the PA Verbal
basic needs as others families; however, the Behavior Project were spearheaded by parents of
specifics are often very different. children with autism. For its first three years, the
Project was administered by a parents’ associa
tion. Today the Project remains committed to The Verbal Behavior Project is able to identify
family involvement and participation. a variety of resources for obtaining additional
information on Autism, Applied Behavior
Such participation can include: Analysis and Verbal Behavior.
• Providing families the opportunity to discuss Although the Pennsylvania Verbal Behavior
how the Verbal Behavior Project influences Project is committed to helping families remain
their child’s educational program through informed about educational programming result
discussion with teachers, local educational ing from consultation, it is important to remem
consultants and Verbal Behavior Project ber that the PA Verbal Behavior Project serves a
consultants. The Verbal Behavior Project
consultative role to local education providers
leadership is also available to answer parent
questions. (school districts and Intermediate Units).
Educational services, including free and appro
• Ensuring that parents, through the priate public education for children with disabili
Individualized Education Program (IEP) ties, are the responsibility of local education
process as well as frequent contact, have agencies and not the PA Verbal Behavior Project.
opportunities to be active partners in identi The Verbal Behavior Project can help, but IEPs
fying important skills to teach and decisions are to be delivered by your local school district
regarding how to teach those skills. or early intervention provider for children of pre
• Attending trainings, as they are scheduled,
at a local level. Often Verbal Behavior The purpose of the PA Verbal Behavior Project
Project consultants are available to provide
is to enhance learning and communication to
informative sessions on the topics relevant
to Applied Behavior Analysis and Verbal improve the lives of children who live with autism
Behavior. and their families. The Project provides training,
consultation, resources, and information.
PA Verbal Behavior
As part of a continuing commitment to • Provide training, to include on-site guided
meeting the educational needs of students practice, in Applied Behavior Analysis and
with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the the Analysis of Verbal Behavior to teachers,
Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) paraprofessionals, parents, administrators,
will continue to support training, consulta Speech Language Therapists, Occupational
tion and onsite guided practice, as provided Therapists, Behavior specialists, and all
in 2004-2005. This initiative continues to be other staff participating in the Verbal
coordinated and administered by Tuscarora Behavior Project.
Intermediate Unit 11. Support to the training
initiative and school sites will continue from • Develop and implement IEP goals, based
PaTTAN Harrisburg. on individual student needs, using effective
instruction based on principles of ABA and
• Fifty-seven classroom sites across the Analysis of Verbal Behavior.
Commonwealth participated in the Verbal
Behavior Project in 2004-05 and were invit • Teach staff to utilize the Assessment of
ed to continue in the Project for the 2005 Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS)
06 school year. as an assessment tool and curriculum guide.
• As part of the continuation of the Project, • Identify one internal coach from the Local
it is anticipated that an advisory group will Education Agency (LEA) who will attend at
be established, including current Project least six of eight full-day consultant train
staff, to address staff issues and program ings, and participate in on-site guided prac
ming. tice with the Project consultant for a mini
mum of one half day per month. The role
The objectives of the Verbal Behavior of the internal coach will be to establish
Project are: local capacity to extend applications of the
ABA/VB consultation within the LEA and/or
• Establish classrooms that will provide spec region.
ified teaching procedures using Applied
Behavior Analysis and the Analysis of • Evaluate the success of the Verbal Behavior
Verbal Behavior to improve communica Project through measures of instructor skill
tion, social, self-care and leisure skills of acquisition in ABA/VB and student out
students with autism. comes as measured by the ABLLS.
By Mary Barbera, RN, MSN, BCBA Dr. Jack Michael and his students, Mark
Sundberg and James Partington, began to apply
Our consultants for the Pennsylvania Verbal Skinner’s book with great success many years
Behavior Project found that there is a need for later.
some basic information about Verbal Behavior
programming. In a question and answer format What is the ABLLS and how does it
our lead consultant will attempt to cover basic relate to Verbal Behavior pro
information for parents and professionals. gramming?
What is Verbal Behavior The ABLLS is an abbreviation for a book titled
Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills.
programming? It was written by Drs. Mark Sundberg and James
Partington and published in 1998. This book is an
Verbal Behavior programming is guided by assessment, curriculum guide, and skills tracking
the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis system for children with autism or other develop
(ABA). In addition to using ABA principles, a mental disabilities. VB practitioners utilize the
Verbal Behavior (VB) practitioner also incorpo ABLLS to assess a child’s level in 25 different
rates B.F. Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior. domains. A parent and/or a teacher who are very
familiar with the child can complete this assess
In 1957, B.F. Skinner published an important ment. The ABLLS can be completed every three
book titled Verbal Behavior. Skinner described to six months after the initial assessment, serving
language as a behavior and illustrated how lan as an excellent tracking system of the child’s
guage could be taught using the principles of progress. Also in 1998, Drs. Sundberg and
operant conditioning. He also expanded the defi Partington published Teaching Language to
nition of verbal behavior to include any behavior Children with Autism and Other Developmental
mediated by a listener. A child using sign lan Disabilities, which gives an excellent overview of
guage to make a request or having a tantrum the VB terminology and techniques. These books,
because he didn’t get his way are both consid based on Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior,
ered Verbal Behavior according to Skinner’s finally brought VB techniques into programs to
analysis. educate children with autism.
How does a Verbal Behavior model with autism may be able to verbally label (in VB
differ from a Lovaas or discrete terms, tact) 100 items. That same child, who may
trial model? be able to say “cookie” when presented with a
picture of a cookie, could not ask for (or mand)
A traditional ABA model such as the one pio for cookie when she wanted one. That child
neered by Dr. Ivaar Lovaas stresses compliance could also not say the word cookie or even point
training, imitation skills, and building receptive to a cookie if you said, “you eat a _______”. This
language for young, non-vocal early learners. The fill-in-the-blank is an intraverbal in VB terminolo
VB model, on the other hand, looks first at what gy. The child could also not say “cookie” if you
the child wants and then teaches the child how said, “say cookie.” So her verbal imitation skills
to request (in VB terms, how to mand). Initially were also very poor. This child’s profile could be
that may involve only the child reaching for the exactly opposite from the next child’s ABLLS.
item to indicate interest. The child quickly learns Getting back to your child who says ten
that if he uses “verbal behavior” or reaching in words, utilizing the VB model and the ABLLS,
this case, to indicate interest in something, he you would have to describe how your child uses
gets the item. Many VB consultants also recom the ten words. Can the child use one-word
mend the use of sign language for most non requests? Does he or she use single words to say
vocal early learners while Lovaas consultants the name of common objects? Can the child
rarely recommend signing as a first step. In VB complete fill-in-the blanks or imitate saying words
programs, early skills, such as manding, are usu or phrases? These are all-important skill differ
ally taught away from a table and in the natural ences and need to be assessed and programmed
environment. Both Lovaas and VB programs are for differently.
based on the principles of ABA so there are
many similarities as well as a few key differences. How can I learn more about Verbal
I keep hearing VB terms like mand
ing, tacting, and intraverbals. My Drs. Mark Sundberg and James Partington
child can say 10 words, how does reside in California but do make presentations on
the East Coast a few times per year. If you have
that relate to the VB model? the opportunity, we recommend attending a
Sundberg or Partington workshop. We also rec
While most traditional speech therapists and ommend training workshops with Dr. Vincent
ABA practitioners break language into receptive Carbone and his associates (see drcarbone.net).
and expressive categories, B.F. Skinner, and later Dr. Carbone utilizes the ABLLS and is a great VB
Drs. Sundberg and Partington, broke language presenter. Parents of Autistic Children (poac.net)
down even further. Drs. Sundberg and Partington based in NJ, also offers many free VB trainings.
realized that children with severe language Parents in PA have recently formed a Chapter of
impairments did not follow the normal develop POAC in PA (poacofpa.net) and also offer free
mental sequence for acquiring language. trainings. Finally, the website
Furthermore, they realized that many children verbalbehaviornetwork.com is a wonderful
with autism had very scattered skills. One child resource for both parents and professionals.
What is ABA?
ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis and • Analyzes socially significant behavior in
is the science of studying behavior and applying need of improvement.**
data supported techniques to increase and/or
decrease behaviors that are meaningful to the • Studies behavior through a three-term
client and client’s social environment. contingency (What happens before the
behavior? What does the behavior look
Basic Principles of ABA like? and What happens immediately
following the behavior? See A-B-C in
These principles underlie all we do: the glossary of this manual). The three-
term contingency is then used to plan
• Defines behavior in objective and meas how to teach.
** Analyzes = Examine, data collection,
• Examines the relationship between and data based decisions.
behavior (what a person does) and its
controlling variables (what happens in
• Verbal Behavior is behavior that is mediated by Mand = request (you say it because
the behavior of another person. This means it you want it)
is what we do in most of our interactions with
other people. Verbal behavior is communica Tact = label (you say it because you see it,
tion. or hear it, or smell it, etc.)
• Verbal behavior focuses attention on the func Intraverbal = conversation, answering a
tional analysis of language: looking at the con question, responding when
ditions under which a person will use lan someone else talks (you say
guage. it because someone else
asked you a question, or
• Verbal behavior can include speaking, using made a comment)
gestures, use of sign language, use of picture
systems, and the use of various augmentative Echoic = repeating what someone else
communication devices. says (you say it because
someone else said it)
Verbal Behavior is best understood by learn Receptive = following directions (you do
ing the verbal operants. The verbal operants are what someone else asks
like building blocks; they are a way of classifying you to)
what is said by why it is said.
In verbal behavior programs we teach all of the “meanings.” One word, such as "cookie," may
have multiple meanings based upon its function. The same word may have to be taught as a mand,
as a tact, as an interverbal, as an echoic, or responded to receptively.
This is what it means to “teach all of the meanings” of a word like
Verbal Operant Antecedent Behavior Consequence
Mand Motivative Operation Verbal behavior (says Direct reinforcement
(MO, want or desire “cookie,” signs cookie (gets a cookie)
for cookie) or exchanges a picture
Tact Sensory stimuli (sees a Verbal behavior (says Non-specific reinforce
cookie, smells cookies, “cookie”; may also ment (example: praise;
tastes a cookie, hears sign cookie or “you’re right!” “great
someone eating a exchange a picture of job!” high five, pat on
cookie, touches a a cookie) back, etc.)
Intraverbal Verbal stimulus (exam Verbal behavior (says Non-specific reinforce
Without point to point ple: “What do you like “cookies,” signs cook ment (example: praise;
correspondence to eat?”) ie, or exchanges a pic “you’re right!” “great
ture of a cookie) job!” high five, pat on
Echoic Verbal stimulus (some Verbal behavior (says Non-specific reinforce
With point to point one says “cookie”) “cookie”) ment (example: praise;
correspondence “you’re right!” “great
job!” high five, pat on
How do we implement
Verbal Behavior in
• A child enters a Verbal Behavior program • Before we start teaching the children, we
with language and social concerns (can’t talk or need to assess their skills. This is done by using
has delayed speech, has trouble interacting, may the Basic Language Assessment Form (BLAF) and
be quite repetitive). the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning
Skills (ABLLS). The BLAF is a quick assessment
• First we teach the child to cooperate and that can be done before the staff starts the more
enjoy being with us. Instead of forcing the child lengthy ABLLS assessment. A copy of the BLAF is
to be with us, we associate ourselves with their included later in this manual.
favorite items or activities and they will, hopeful
ly, approach us. In doing this, we are pairing • In addition to assessment, the verbal behav
ourselves with reinforcement. ior consultants train the teachers and classroom
staff in program development, and on-site guided
• Then we teach the child how to: practice. This may include showing or modeling
how to implement certain programs or handle
~ Ask for what they want (MAND) behavior problems, data based decision making,
behavior management, and research supported
~ Say what things are (TACT) teaching techniques.
~ Answer questions (INTRAVERBAL)
~ Follow directions (RECEPTIVE)
~ Imitate (Vocal – ECHOIC) can be
motor imitation too
~ Use toys or other objects appropriately
What is the
The BLAF stands for Behavior Why use the BLAF?
Language Assessment Form.
• It is useful with children with limited verbal
• It has 12 sections that cover early language behavior.
and related areas (pp 15-46 Teaching
Language to Children Manual). • It is a brief assessment, much less time con
suming than administering the complete
• It helps to determine where to start a lan ABLLS.
guage intervention program.
• It helps identify which operants to teach
• It is a quick assessment that can help guide first, and perhaps, which response form to
initial programming and give an overall use (vocal, signs, picture selection).
view of the student’s skills.
• It is a good place to start planning.
• A typical 3-4 year old child would have the
BLAF skills completed. • It is a simplified version of the ABLLS.
• It is a screening tool.
• It has a brief administration time.
• Teaching staff can begin to develop curricu
la programs based on the BLAF while com
pleting the ABLLS. Please see APPENDIX 1
What is the
The ABLLS stands for Assessment of Basic Language and Learning
Skills, written by James Partington, Ph.D and Mark Sundberg, Ph.D.
The ABLLS is broken into sections that include:
Basic Language and pre-language Self-Help Skills Assessment
Learner Skills Assessment U. Dressing Skills
V. Eating Skills
A. Cooperation and
X. Toileting Skills
B. Visual Performance
C. Receptive Language Motor Skills Assessment
D. Imitation Y. Gross Motor Skills
E. Vocal Imitation Z. Fine Motor Skills
G. Labeling The first nine sections of the
H. Intraverbals ABLLS (Sections A to I) are those
I. Spontaneous Vocalizations that are most important for
J. Syntax and Grammar teaching communication skills.
K. Play and Leisure Most Verbal Behavior program
L. Social Interaction ming comes from sections A to I.
M. Group Instruction The skill items listed on the
N. Follow Classroom Routines ABLLS are used to guide what is
P. Generalized Responding taught to children on a daily
basis. The order of skills helps
Academic Skills Assessment teachers to know and plan for
Q. Reading Skills skills that will be taught next.
R. Math Skills
S. Writing Skills
What is Positive Reinforcement? adults are seen as “givers,” a source of good
Positive Reinforcement – something is added
or gained that increases the probability of the The result of pairing should be approach
behavior occurring again. behavior!
Reinforcement is a change in the environment What is approach behavior?
following a behavior that increases the future
probability of that behavior occurring under simi Approach behavior simply means having the
lar circumstances. child want to come to be with you and stay with
you. Any movement of the child toward you is
Reinforcement ALWAYS INCREASES the proba approach behavior.
bility of behavior (it doesn’t matter if the rein
forcement is positive or negative). “We want the children to run toward us, not
away from us.”
Remember that reinforcement can consist of – Jim Partington
almost any event; do not think of reinforcement
“Our goal is to be a human chocolate chip
as being just something that is given to the child.
Any event that follows a behavior and makes that
- Siri Ming
behavior more likely to occur in the future is
reinforcement. If we’re having fun, the students will be hav
ing fun and will want to be with us. It is easier to
What does it mean to pair with teach someone who wants to be with us rather
reinforcers? then someone who wants to run away from us.
We offer free reinforcers to the child before Though no demands are placed at first, rein
working on any instructional demands. Providing forcers are delivered for approach behavior…the
playful interactions, bits of fruit, chips, candy, student has to look at us, or walk by us, or allow
tickles, hugs, and spins may be examples of free us to walk by him/her to get the reinforcer. We
reinforcers. “Free” simply means that you deliver do not chase…that would reinforce “walking
the reinforcer without demanding anything of the away” behaviors!
When we start assessing and working with the
When pairing is done properly, kids want to students we need to assess their reinforcers.
be around us! They don’t mind working with us Families and teachers will be asked to fill out a
when the time comes, because a history of posi Reinforcer Assessment in the beginning of the
tive reinforcement has been established. The year. Please see APPENDIX 3.
What are the steps we follow when • Manipulating antecedents (changes things in
there is a student exhibiting prob the environment).
lem behavior in the classroom? • Reinforcing an appropriate behavior that
• We try to PREVENT the behavior from does the same thing as the inappropriate
occurring. behavior; in other words, teaching the child
to communicate appropriately rather than
• Prevention starts with effective instruction having a tantrum.
and careful use of motivation strategies.
• Reducing the child’s motivation to engage in
• Busy kids, who are having fun and learning, problem behavior by providing learning
generally do not present behavior problems. activities that result in good things happen
If the problem behavior continues we need to
look at the functions of behavior. • Making sure the problem behavior does not
result in things getting better for the child
In order to do this we: (this is called extinction and is explained
• Define the behavior problem
Interventions to help reduce problem behav
• Collect baseline data: (frequency data) iors are chosen on an individual basis. As a par
ent or guardian, you may be asked by your
• Graph frequency data school district or intermediate unit to be part of
• Begin completing a descriptive analysis
including: As noted above, some ways of reducing prob
~ Interview lem behavior involve extinction: not providing
~ Systematic observation (ABC data collec the reinforcement that maintains the behavior.
tion, behavior card) Extinction procedures may lead to what is called
~ Rating scale: FAST (Functional Assessment an “extinction burst” in which behaviors tem
Screening Tool) or FBAI (Functional porarily increase. After an extinction burst the
Behavioral Assessment Inventory) behaviors usually decrease dramatically. Parents
need to understand that a temporary increase of
Once we determine a hypothesis for why the behaviors is sometimes necessary to decrease the
behavior is occurring (what type of reinforcement behavior. For example, if you are talking to a
the child is getting from the behavior) we can friend and ask “What time is it?” and your friend
determine an appropriate intervention. doesn’t answer (putting you on extinction) what
do you normally do? You say it louder! This is
Some ways that behavior problems may be an extinction burst. If your friend continued to
addressed through behavior analysis include: ignore you, you would eventually stop. Like all
well-designed and implemented behavior pro Some behavior reduction procedures need to
grams, extinction programs should include data be written into the IEP. Your teacher will keep
showing how frequently the problem behavior you up to date on any behavior reduction plans.
occurs while the program is implemented. It is the school’s responsibility to develop behav
ior plans. The VB consultants can provide infor
mation on how best to select positive and effec
tive ways of managing behavior.
www.autism-society.org The Assessment of Basic Language and
Learning Skills (ABLLS): An Assessment,
www.autismlink.com Curriculum Guide, and Tracking System for
www.Autismsafe.org Children with Autism or Other Developmental
Disabilities. Sundberg, M.L., & Partington, J.W.
www.autismshop.com (1998). Danville, CA, Behavior Analysts, Inc.
The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,
www.difflearn.com – Online catalog specializ http://seab.envmed.rochester.edu/jaba/
ing in learning materials and playthings for
children with developmental delays and chal The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. Partington,
lenges. J.W. & Bailey, J.S. (1993), 11, 9-18.
Mariposa School Program Manual, www.mari
Teaching Language to Children with Autism or
Other Developmental Disabilities. Sundberg,
M.L., & Partington, J.W. (1998). Danville, CA:
Behavior Analysts, Inc.
Special Education ConsultLine
Special Education ConsultLine is a program of
the Department of Education, Bureau of
Special Education, for use by parents or parent
support organizations to answer questions
about school-related concerns, special educa
tion, and the complaint system. It is designed
to be a one-stop service for parents concerning
special education services and programs.
800-879-2301, TTY Penn Relay Service 800
Appendix 1 - BLAF
The Behavioral Language Assessment Form (BLAF)
For the following questions, indicate the level of 3. Uses 1-5 words, signs, or pictures to ask for
performance that best describes the learner’s typi reinforcers
cal level of performance. 4. Uses 5-10 words, signs or pictures to ask
1. COOPERATION WITH ADULTS _____ (enter 5. Frequently requests using 10 or more
score) words, signs, or pictures
How easy is it to work with the child? 3. MOTOR IMITATION ______
1. Always uncooperative, avoids work,
Does the learner copy actions?
engages in negative behavior
2. Will do only one brief and easy response 1. Cannot imitate anybody’s motor movements
for a powerful behavior 2. Imitates a few gross motor movements
3. Will give 5 responses without disruptive modeled by others
3. Imitates several gross motor movements on
4. Will work for 5 minutes without disruptive
5. Works well for 10 minutes at a table with 4. Imitates several fine and gross motor move
out disruptive behavior ments on request
5. Easily imitates any fine or gross movements,
2. REQUESTS (Mands) ______ often spontaneously
How does the learner make his needs and 4. VOCAL PLAY ______
Does the learner spontaneously say sounds and
1. Cannot ask for reinforcers; or engages in words?
2. Pulls people, points, or stands by reinforc 1. Does not make any sounds (mute)
ing items 2. Makes a few speech sounds at a low rate
3. Vocalizes many speech sounds with varied 4. Can follow many instructions and point to
intonations at least 25 items
4. Vocalizes frequently with varied intonation 5. Can point to at least 100 items, actions, per
and says a few words sons, adjectives
5. Vocalizes frequently and says many clearly
understandable words 8. LABELING (Tacts) ______
5. VOCAL IMITATION (Echoic) ______ Does the learner label or verbally identify any
items or actions?
Will the learner repeat sounds or words?
1. Cannot identify any items or actions
1. Does not make any sounds (mute) 2. Identifies only 1 to 5 items or actions
2. Makes a few speech sounds at a low rate 3. Identifies 6 to 15 items or actions
3. Vocalizes many speech sounds with varied 4. Identifies 16 – 50 items or actions
intonations 5. Identifies over 100 items or actions and
4. Vocalizes frequently with varied intonation emits short sentences
and says a few words
5. Vocalizes frequently and says many clearly 9. RECEPTIVE BY FUNCTION, FEATURE,
understandable words AND CLASS ______
6. MATCHING-TO-SAMPLE ______ Does the learner identify items when given infor
mation about those items?
Will the learner match objects, pictures, and
designs to presented samples? 1. Cannot identify items based on information
1. Cannot match any objects or pictures to a 2. Will identify a few items given synonyms or
sample common functions
2. Can match 1 or 2 objects or pictures to a 3. Will identify 10 items given 1 of 3 functions
sample or features
3. Can match 5-10 objects or pictures to a 4. Will identify 25 items given 4 functions, fea
sample tures, or classes
4. Can match 5-10 colors, shapes, or designs 5. Will identify 100 items given 5 functions,
to a sample features, or classes
5. Can match most items and match 2 to 5
block designs 10. CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS
7. RECEPTIVE ______
Can the learner fill-in missing words or answer
Does the learner understand any words or follow questions?
1. Cannot fill-in missing words or parts of
1. Cannot understand any words songs
2. Will follow a few instructions related to 2. Can fill-in a few missing words or provide
daily routines animal sounds
3. Will follow a few instructions to do actions 3. Can fill-in 10 non-reinforcing phrases or
or touch items answer at least 10 simple questions
4. Can fill-in 20 phrases or can answer 20 12. Does the learner initiate and sustain interac
questions with variation tions with others?
5. Can answer at least 30 questions with varia
tion 1. Does not initiate interactions with others
2. Physically approaches others to initiate an
11. LETTERS AND NUMBERS ______ interaction
3. Readily asks adults for reinforcers
Does the learner know any letters, numbers, or 4. Verbally interacts with peers and prompts
written words? 5. Regularly initiates and sustains verbal inter
actions with peers.
1. Cannot identify any letters, numbers, or
2. Can identify at least 3 letters or numbers
3. Can identify at least 15 letters or number
4. Can read at least 5 words and identify 5
5. Can read at least 25 words and identify 10
Appendix 2 - ABLLS
Reinforcement Assessment Form
Child’s Name: ________________________________________________________ Date:______________
Completed by: _______________________________________________________
Prior to beginning intensive teaching it is important to identify ALL of your child’s motivators or rein
forcers. Many children have very specific reinforcers and some like to use them only in a particular
way. Please provide as much detail as possible about your child’s reinforcers. This information will
help expedite the transition to intensive teaching.
Using a scale of 1-5 (1 being the most favorable) please indicate your child’s preferences below:
1. What are your child’s favorite indoor activities?
Puzzles ____ Games ____ Books ____
Sensory toys ____ Musical instruments ____ Computer games ______
Action figures ____ Painting ____ Bowling ____
Play dough ____ Other: _____
2. What are your child’s outdoor playtime activities?
Bicycle ____ Swing set ____ Trampoline ____
Theme parks ____ Swimming ____ Slide ____
3. What are your child’s favorite video preferences?
Disney movies ____ Animated movies ____ Cartoons ____
Real-life animal videos____
List some of your child’s favorite videos:
4. What are your child’s favorite snacks?
Candy ____ Fruit ____ Cookies ____
Crackers ____ Chips ____ Pretzels ____
Ice cream ____ Other: ______
List your child’s favorite brand names:
5. What are your child’s favorite beverages?
Soda ____ Juice ____ Water ____
List your child’s favorite flavors and brand names:
6. What are your child’s favorite books?
Pop-up books ____ Picture books ____ Books with sound cards ____
Sensory books ____ Puzzle book ____ Coloring books ____
Sticker books ____
7. What are your child’s preferences for pets?
Cats ___ Dogs ____ Hamsters ____
Fish ____ Gerbils ____ Other ____
8. What is your child’s special strength?
Art ____ Math ____ Music ____
Spatial ____ Reading ____ Computer ____
9. What activity does your child prefer when using the computer?
CD Rom games ____ Internet Sites ____
List your child’s CD Rom games:
List your child’s favorite internet sites:
10. What are your child’s favorite songs?
Song 1. ______________________________________________
Song 2. ______________________________________________
Song 3. ______________________________________________
Song 4. ______________________________________________
Song 5. ______________________________________________
Developed by Allie McVeigh and the Verbal Behavior Network
Glossary of Terms
ABA ~ An acronym that is used to refer to the field of continuing to prompt the student through the rest of the
APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS, the application of the sci puzzle. Once the student puts the last piece in independ
ence of learning to socially significant human behavior. ently (no prompts), the instructor can begin to fade
prompts on second to last piece.
A-B-C ~ A description of a RESPONSE in terms of the
Antecedent (A), Behavior (B), and Consequence (C). Baseline ~ The period of observation during which we
gather data relevant to intervention.
Antecedent ~ The stimulus that immediately comes
before the behavior Behavior ~ This term refers to some action made by an
Behavior ~ A description of the response in terms of individual. Use the dead man’s (or person’s) test.
its topography (what the behavior looks like)
Consequence ~ The immediate outcome of the behav Behavior chain ~ Multiple steps that make up a given
ior behavior or activity.
ABLLS ~ Acronym for the Assessment of Basic Language Behavior Treatment Plan ~ A written description outlin
and Learning Skills, a language assessment tool in common ing how relevant individuals in a client’s environment
usage within Applied Behavior Analytic programs. Created should respond if a given target behavior occurs, or if a
by Dr. James W. Partington and Dr. Mark L. Sundberg. given target behavior does not occur.
Acquisition ~ The time during which an individual is Behaviorism ~ The philosophy of the science of behav
learning a new behavior. Data collected on the rate (speed) ior. It takes several forms, but always emphasizes that
and accuracy of the skill being acquired informs the inter behavior is the proper subject matter of psychology and
ventionist working with an individual as to whether the should be studied using an objective scientific, experimen
teaching procedures being used need to be adjusted. tal methodology.
Activities of Daily Living (ADL) ~ Includes many different Board Certified Behavior Analyst ~ This is a person who
behaviors involved in taking care of one’s self (e.g. toilet has satisfied all the requirements to acquire the “B.C.B.A.”
usage, washing, dressing, eating). These behaviors are also and can, therefore, call himself/herself a Board Certified
referred to as self-help skills. Behavior Analyst. Requirements include completing a pre
requisite number of hours of university-level course work
Activity Schedule ~ Individuals are taught to follow a in the science of behavior, completing a period of intern
series of written or pictorial cues, engaging in the behavior ship under the supervision of a Board Certified Behavior
chain represented. Analyst, and passing the required written examination. To
maintain certification once it is achieved, there are various
Backward chaining ~ A specific method of instruction continuing education requirements. There are currently two
where one attempts to teach a task by teaching the last step levels of certification: the Board Certified Behavior Analyst
first and working through a task analysis in reverse. EX: (B.C.B.A.) and the Board Certified Associate Behavior
Putting together a new puzzle. The instructor would Analyst (B.C.A.B.A.). The exact requirements and most cur
prompt the student to put in all of the pieces in the puz rent information regarding how to become or locate a
zles. They would fade the prompt on the last piece while Board Certified Behavior Analyst are available through the
Behavior Analyst Certification Board web site, at individually, and there is a very high degree of student-
www.BACB.com. instructor interaction with error correction and positive
reinforcement for correct responding. There is an empha
Case Study ~ A description of the background of a particu sis on very well designed and researched modules that stu
lar individual usually used to assist in treatment decisions. dents must master before moving on to the next level (see
work by Engleman and Carnine).
Chaining ~ A teaching procedure wherein one attempts to
link various simple, individual responses together to make Discrete Trial Teaching ~ Discrete trial teaching is the
one, longer complex behavior. One talks of “chaining” the three-term contingency (A-B-C) relationship as applied to
individual responses that make up “setting a table,” for teaching new skills. It is necessary because of the difficul
example. ties children with disabilities have in learning information
from the everyday environment. Each “trial” is a separate
Conditioned Reinforcer ~ A reinforcer that was previous attempt to teach a new behavior or reinforce a previously
ly neutral, but has become a reinforcer. Money becomes a learned behavior.
conditioned reinforcer by being paired with the items it
purchases. Interventionists may become conditioned rein * Echoic ~ One of Skinner’s Verbal Operants, the repeating
forcers for their student’s behavior, through being paired of previously heard utterances.
with other reinforcers (e.g. praise, tokens, favored activi
ties). Edible Reinforcers ~ Food items that may be used as rein
forcers for some persons. One common myth surrounding
Consequence ~ The specific immediate result of a given ABA is that edibles are the predominant reinforcers used in
behavior. The consequence may or may not have behavior- all treatment procedures with children. In actuality, when
altering properties. edibles are used, they are always paired with other more
natural reinforcers such as verbal praise, attention, and
Data ~ Pieces of information gathered to guide the deci tokens, and are faded as the student acquires other rein
sion-making progress. ABA relies upon data-based deci forcers.
sion making. Teaching and behavior management pro
grams are based upon information that is systematically Errorless Learning ~ This refers to a form of Discrete
gathered during the teaching/working process. Trial Teaching. In errorless learning, prompting and
prompt fading are utilized to reduce and or eliminate the
Data-Based Decision Making ~ A requirement of ABA, likelihood of learner errors. If possible, the child is prevent
this refers to the fact that teaching and behavior manage ed from making the incorrect response in the first place
ment decisions are based upon information that is systemat through careful prompting. This increases the probability
ically gathered during the teaching/working process. that the child will have more opportunities to make a cor
rect response and receive reinforcement.
Dead Man’s (Person’s) Test ~ A guiding principle in the
creation of behavior goals and behavior treatment plans. It Error Correction ~ Correction procedure that is used in
basically states that anything a dead person can do is not the event that the learner respond incorrectly, or is non
behavior. responsive. In error correction, the discriminative stimu
lus is repeated, followed by a zero second prompt for the
Deprivation ~ To increase the potency of a reinforcer by child to respond correctly. Error correction is always fol
not delivering it to the individual for a time. For example: lowed by a transfer trial.
to make access to a favorite video game particularly rein
forcing, one might limit access to the game. When a partic Extinction ~ To cease reinforcing a previously reinforced
ular goal is met (cleaning up their room), they can have behavior to decrease the behavior’s frequency.
access to their reinforcer. If an individual has restricted
access to a particular reinforcer, it is unlikely to be particu Extinction Burst ~ A reliable phenomenon, this refers to
larly potent when offered as a reinforcer. Contrast with the tendency for behavior “to get worse before it gets bet
satiation. ter” when a previously reinforced behavior is no longer
reinforced. During the burst, the behavior will temporarily
Direct Instruction ~ A form of teaching that is heavily increase in frequency, magnitude, and variability.
based upon behavioral principles. Students are taught in
groups that are made up of students at roughly the same Fading ~ This term refers to gradually removing any extra
academic level, there is a scripted and fast-paced presenta prompts one has introduced into a teaching situation.
tion of materials, students respond as a group, as well as
Fluency ~ This general term refers to the ability of an indi * Mand ~ One of Skinner’s Verbal Operants, it means to
vidual to complete a given number of responses accurate request. One mands, for example, when one requests rein
ly within a given period of time. forcers.
Frequency ~ Refers to the sheer number of target respons Matching to Sample ~ Refers to a teaching procedure in
es counted. For example, “the student made seven initia which some stimulus is presented (the sample) and a child
tions to his peers.” must select the correct matching object from a set of com
Forward Chaining ~ A type of chaining procedure in
which the first step in a task analysis is taught first, then Most-to-least prompting ~ This term refers to a prompt
the second step, then the third step, through to the final ing and prompt fading strategy where one begins
step (the full behavior chain being emitted). prompting at a level guaranteed to get the response to
occur. You would fade the intensity of the prompt over
Functional Analysis ~ One of the central processes of time to avoid prompt dependency.
ABA, functional analysis involves the steps taken to answer
the central question of “Why is he doing that?” Motivational Operation ~ Sometimes abbreviated as MO,
this term refers to an alteration on the environment that
Generalization ~ Speaking broadly, generalization refers to affects the power of other stimuli to serve as reinforcers
variation in either response or setting. We strive to general and antecedent stimuli.
ize across time, setting, people, and instructional materials.
Natural Environment Teaching ~ Sometimes abbreviated
Graphing ~ The representation of behavioral data on a as NET, this term refers to a teaching approach where the
grid. Graphs make for easy summarization of trends and child’s current activities and interests determine teaching
level in behavior. They are also used to assess progress in strategies.
learning and to make teaching/treatment decisions.
Negative Reinforcement ~ Describes a relationship
Imitation ~ To copy observed actions or sounds. Most between events in which the rate of a behavior’s occur
often discussed in ABA programming in terms of motor rence increases when some (usually aversive or unpleasant)
(a.k.a. nonverbal) imitation of actions, or verbal (a.k.a. environmental condition is removed or reduced in intensity.
vocal) imitation of speech sounds. It leads to an increase in the future probability of a given
behavior. For example, if a student tantrums after the
Incidental Teaching ~ Generally speaking, the incidental teacher asked him/her to perform a task, and the teacher
teaching refers to teaching that “takes advantage” of natu withdraws the request as a result of the tantrum. In such a
rally occurring opportunities to teach, often with student- case, the teacher has accidentally negatively reinforced
initiated activities. the tantrum and unwittingly made it more likely to happen
in the future.
Inclusion ~ Inclusion is a term describing the education of
students with disabilities, including those with the most Pairing ~ Pairing is the process by which you establish
cognitive impairments, in general classroom settings. It yourself as a reinforcer, in order to build a positive relation
implies more than mere physical proximity between stu ship and rapport with your student (for parents, your
dents with and without disabilities. Indeed, the term means child). It involves the association of a “neutral stimulus”
full participation and equality as part of a group, leading to (you, other instructors) with an existing reinforcer, and
a sense of belonging within the classroom and community results in the “neutral stimulus” becoming reinforcing. It is
at large. It means that a student is truly a member of, not also the process by which you can shape the social skills of
merely a visitor to, the class or group. However, inclusion interaction and engagement.
does not necessarily mean that a student never leaves the
class or the group of students of which he or she is a part. There are two primary aspects of pairing:
-Presenting yourself and your words in association with the
* Intraverbal ~ One of Skinner’s Verbal Operants, a verbal delivery of reinforcers.
response that is controlled by the verbal responses of oth -Reinforcing interaction and engagement behavior at what
ers. A program where a student “fills in” a missing word be ever level is appropriate for the child.
an example of an intraverbal, “Twinkle, twinkle, little
_____.” Another example would be if the teacher asked Positive Reinforcement ~ A stimulus is presented follow
the student, "How old are you?," and the child responded ing a given target behavior, this leads to an increase in the
vocally or with sign or a picture, “five.” future probability of that target behavior. As with other con
sequences, it is important to remember that a stimulus is Sd ~ This is the symbolic notation for Discriminative
only a positive reinforcer if, when presented, leads to an Stimulus. This is a stimulus that signals that a given behav
increase in the future probability of the behavior. ior will be reinforced.
Sr+ ~ The symbolic notation for positive reinforcement.
Precision Teaching ~ Practice plus fluency. Precision
teaching does not replace what you teach. It provides an Satiation ~ A reinforcer loses its effectiveness through
efficient and effective way to practice skills and monitor overuse.
progress. The outcome of precision teaching is fluency.
Schedule of Reinforcement ~ The ratio of responses to
Primary reinforcer ~ A reinforcer that is effective without reinforcers.
any prior learning (i.e. is in-born).
Secondary Reinforcer ~ A consequence that was previ
Probe (cold) ~ Data that is collected for a student’s first ously neutral, but has become a reinforcer through pairing
response. with a previously established reinforcer.
Prompt ~ Makes the desired behavior more likely. Think Shaping ~ Process used to create new behavior by differ
of prompts as hints. Whenever you use a prompt, you entially reinforcing successive approximations to a desired
should be thinking about how to fade it out. This will allow behavior (the target response).
the student to respond to cues in the environment on their
own. In instruction, the prompt occurs as part of the Social reinforcers ~ Reinforcers that consist of interactions
antecedent condition (in the three term contingency ABC). with other individuals. (high five, thumbs up, wink).
Rate ~ A measure of frequency across a specific period of * Tact ~ One of Skinner’s Verbal Operants, meaning to
time. For example, a child emits seven initiations per hour. “label.” This might entail labeling specific objects or occur
rences. In programming, the final goal is generally sponta
Receptive Programs ~ Teaching programs that call on the neous tacting, where the individual tacts without prompting
student to follow an instruction. This is a non-vocal (e.g., a child makes an initiation by describing an object to
response. For example: The student is shown four colors another child as a means of sharing experiences).
and asked to touch the one that is red. Another example,
the teacher asks the student to go to the door to line up Target Behavior ~ A response that we are making the
and the student follows the instruction. object of analysis (e.g., to increase or decrease the proba
bility of a given behavior).
Redirection ~ One individual attempts to interrupt a stu
dent engaging in a behavior (often an inappropriate behav Task Analysis ~ Used most often in discussions of chain
ior) and attempts to engage him/her in an alternate (gener ing, this is a written list of all steps that must be accom
ally more appropriate) behavior. plished to perform a particular behavior. Depending on the
individual, one skill could take 10 steps or 100 steps.
Reinforcer ~ A consequence that increases the future
probability of the behavior that immediately preceded it. Timeout from Positive Reinforcement ~ Often called
“time out” for short, this term refers to a collection of very
Reinforcer Assessment ~ This is a procedure to identify often misused techniques. The general idea of time out is
the stimuli and activities that a student finds reinforcing. that a given reinforcer is removed for a short period of
Remember: you may think something is a reinforcer but if it time, contingent upon some inappropriate behavior being
does not lead to an increase in the future probability of emitted by an individual. While this can take the form of an
that target behavior, it is not a reinforcer for the child. individual having to go to a different setting (e.g., the com
mon “time out chair”), time out need not take this form,
RFFC ~ Receptive categorization according to the Function, and there are good reasons to avoid this use (e.g., acciden
Feature, or Class of an object. Examples: tally reinforcing with attention, or accidentally reinforcing
Function: “What do you eat with?” Child hands you a avoidance behavior). Time out can be accomplished within
spoon. the given setting (e.g., a T.V. set is turned off for 10 sec
Feature: “Which one bounces?” Child touches the pic onds following inappropriate hand flapping while watch
ture of a ball. ing).
Class: “Which one is a toy?” Child gives you the yoyo
on the table. Topography ~ What a behavior looks like. A description of
the form of the behavior.
Transfer Trial ~ An unprompted trial that follows a Verbal Behavior ~ A book written by B.F. Skinner that
prompted trial. To get a transfer trial, prompts are faded to describes a behavioral approach to language. It emphasizes
lead to an independent response. A transfer trial should fol the idea that communication is a behavior that follows the
low every prompted trial. same laws and principles as other forms of behavior.
Variable Ratio Schedule of Reinforcment ~ An intermit Visual Prompt ~ A cue that is meant to be seen and that
tent schedule of reinforcement where reinforcement has behavior-altering effects. This may take the form, for
becomes available after an uncertain number of responses. example, of a culturally accepted symbol such as a “stop
The schedule is named for the average number of respons sign,” or may take the form of something designed for an
es needed for reinforcement (for example, VR 10 requires individual teaching program. For example, holding up a
an average of 10 responses for reinforcement). This is picture of a cat when asked “What says meow?”
among the most powerful schedules of reinforcement for
encouraging rapid responding and providing resistance to * These are the Verbal Operants
Alberto, Paul A. and Troutman, Anne C. (1982) Applied Behavior Analysis for Teachers. Ohio
Newman, Bobby, Reeve, Kenneth, Reeve Sharon, Ryan, Carolyn (2003) Behavior Speaks. New York: Dave and Orca.
Sundberg, M.L., & Partington, J.W. (1998). Teaching language to children with autism or other developmental disabilities.
(Chapter 5: Beginning Language Intervention). Pleasant Hill, CA: Behavior Analysts, Inc.
The Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 is an equal rights and opportunity educational service agency and will not discrimi
nate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age or religion in its activities, educational and
vocational programs or employment practices as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the 1972
Educational Amendments, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as
amended and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act of 1955 as amended. For information regarding civil rights or
grievance procedures, contact Richard D. Daubert, Equal Rights and Opportunity Coordinator, at Tuscarora Intermediate
Unit 11, 2527 US Hwy. 522 South, McVeytown, Pennsylvania 17051-9717, Phones: 814-542-2501 or 717-899-7143.
For further information concerning the PA Verbal Behavior Project, please contact:
Ms. Jill Lichty, M.S., CCC: PA Verbal Behavior Project Director, email@example.com
Ms. Debra L. Namey, M.S., CCC-SLP: PA Verbal Behavior Program Coordinator, 570-762-8604, firstname.lastname@example.org
Compiled by: Ms. Kelly Gansarski, MSW, BCBA
Commonwealth of Department of Education Office of Elementary and Bureau of Special Education
Pennsylvania Gerald Zahorchak, D.Ed., Secondary Education Linda O. Rhen, Ed.D.,
Edward G. Rendell, Secretary Diane Castelbuono, Director
Governor Deputy Secretary John J. Tommasini,