Learn More About Verbal Behavior


Traditional views of language take a structural approach that emphasizes the topography (or form) of words and sentences. Those who hold such a view attempt to teach language based exclusively on form, often with little success. In 1957, B. F. Skinner published Verbal Behavior in which he defined language in functional terms and outlined an explanation of language based on an analysis of the controlling variables for different types of verbal responses. This focus on the reasons why words are said allows us to not only teach the learner to use words to communicate, but allows us to teach actual concepts or "meanings" of words that can lead to conversational language in our children. Skinner's explanation is now being used by many behavior analysts who teach language to individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities (Sundberg & Partington, 1998).

An example of Skinner's views can be provided with a single word like "candy". From a structural approach, the word "candy" is just a word and can have no real meaning. The meaning is given to the word based upon when, why, and how we say it. If you look at the word from a functional view, "candy" has several meanings. When a person says "candy" it can mean that they want a piece of candy. This is what Skinner referred to as a mand and is one possible function or "meaning" of the word "candy."

Another function would be if a person sees candy, does not want it, but labels it (says "candy") for someone else. This is a type of verbal response Skinner referred to as a tact. A third function would be illustrated if someone asked "what do you like to snack on?" and the person answered, "candy." Skinner referred to this type of response as an intraverbal. One could also echo someone else when they say the word "candy." This type of response was termed echoic behavior by Skinner. According to Skinner, a person does not truly "have the concept" of a word unless they are able to use the word appropriately across all of its many functions.

The implication of Skinner's functional analysis of language is that one cannot assume that teaching an individual to utter a word under one set of conditions will result in their ability to "use" the word under the many other relevant conditions. For example, just because a person can ask for candy when s/he wants some, does not mean that a person can automatically answer questions about candy when it is not present. As such, the individual units of a language are best taught individually.



Cherish co-founded Establishing Operations, Inc. in 2003.
As Managing Partner, she created and co-presented a series of workshops on verbal behavior for 12 years and supervised the consultation services of the associates of EO Inc. Cherish holds a Master of Science degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, FL and is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). She currently has 18 years of experience working with children with autism and behavior disorders. She has experience as a teacher, behavior specialist and in home therapist for children with autism. Cherish began her consulting career in 1999. Since that time she has consulted to dozens of families with children with autism across the US, Canada as well as in the UK and Italy. Cherish is currently the president of Motivation Matters, INC. and a clinical supervisor at JSA Clinical Group, where she is responsible for overseeing the programs of the students as well as staff training. Cherish's reputation in the autism community is strong and she is known for her ability to work with both autism professionals and parents. Cherish resides in Jacksonville with her 7 year old son, Nathan, and her husband Paul.

Holly Kibbe co-founded Establishing Operations, Inc. in 2003.
As Managing Partner, she has created and co-presents a series of workshops designed to train professionals in how to teach Verbal Behavior as well as providing supervision for the associates of EO Inc. Mrs. Kibbe is a board certified behavior analyst and holds a Masters of Science degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Florida Institute ofTechnology in Melbourne, Florida. She has been working with children with autism and other developmental and behavioral disorders for ten years. She has experience working as a behavior analyst for both children with autism and typically developing children with severe behavioral disorders and as a pre-school teacher for children with autism. Mrs. Kibbe began studying and working privately applying the principals of behavior analysis to teach Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior in 1998. Mrs. Kibbe is based out of Atlanta, GA and currently provides in-home and center based consultation services for children with language delays, as well as a series of training workshops for professionals and parents all over the US, Canada, Bermuda, Ireland, England and Wales.



DVD Previews


Getting Started - Purchase the DVD

Teaching Vocal Manding - Purchase the DVD

Teaching the Tact - Purchase the DVD



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