Verbal Behavior (VB) therapy is a branch of Applied Behavioral Analyses therapy (ABA); it helps non-verbal children to become vocal and use words with meaning. Having a child who is non-verbal is scary, for both the child and the parents involved, but there is hope even if your child is severely delayed. Recently a study showed that children, who cannot speak by the age of four, can learn how to speak – something that was deemed unlikely. The study can be found here.

B.F. Skinner was a famous psychologist who wrote a book on verbal behavior and developed many of the theories that ABA is based on. B.F. Skinner said that language comes in types:


Mand – To ask for something, such as juice


Tact – A label of an object, such as circle, when something is round


Intraverbal – A way to answer a question, such as where do you live?


Echoic – When your child repeats what is said


Because of these different types of speech, your therapist looks at what is the most basic and works their way up. In this case, a Mand would be most basic, which is why a child will learn to ask for juice by saying ‘juice’, and not ‘I’m thirsty’ when they begin.


VB therapists today also work on play skills, self-help skills, social skills and complying with instructions. They do this using discrete trial training, natural environment teaching and manding to name a few.

Just like ABA, VB doesn’t let the child feel they got the answer wrong. Autistic children receive little positive feedback as they don’t engage in the world in the same way other children do. To achieve a positive learning environment, the child is re-directed and lavished in praise to solidify the positive re-enforcement process – that will ultimately help your child learn in the real world.