What Are Verbal Operants In ABA Therapy?

One of the key components of ABA therapy is the use of verbal operants, which are the building blocks of language.

reuben kesherim
Published By Ruben Kesherim
June 22, 2023

What Are Verbal Operants In ABA Therapy?

What Are Verbal Operants In ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely-used approach to treat individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ABA therapy is based on the principles of behaviorism, which suggests that behavior is shaped by environmental factors. One of the key components of ABA therapy is the use of verbal operants, which are the building blocks of language.

Verbal operants are the basic units of language that allow individuals to communicate with others. These operants are categorized into six types, each with its own unique function.

verbal operants

The 6 Verbal Operants

  1. Mand: A mand is a request for something. For example, when a child says "I want juice," they are manding for juice.
  2. Tact: A tact is a label or description of something in the environment. For example, when a child says "That's a dog," they are tacting the dog.
  3. Echoic: An echoic is a repetition of what someone else has said. For example, when a child says "apple" after an adult says "apple," they are echoing the word.
  4. Intraverbal: An intraverbal is a response to a verbal stimulus that does not have a clear relationship to the stimulus. For example, when a child responds to the question "What's your favorite color?" with "I like ice cream," they are using an intraverbal.
  5. Textual: A textual is a reading or writing response to a verbal stimulus. For example, when a child reads the word "cat" after an adult says "cat," they are using a textual.
  6. Transcription: A transcription is a writing response to a verbal stimulus. For example, when a child writes the word "cat" after an adult says "cat," they are using a transcription.

In ABA therapy, verbal operants are used to teach language skills to individuals with ASD. The therapist will first assess the individual's current level of language development and then create a program to teach the individual new verbal operants.

The therapist will use a variety of techniques, such as prompting and reinforcement, to teach the individual the new operants.

Verbal operants are also used to teach other skills, such as social skills and problem-solving. For example, the therapist may use intraverbals to teach the individual how to have a conversation or use textuals to teach the individual how to read.

Examples Of Verbal Operants

Examples of verbal operants include not only the six types mentioned above, but also more specific instances. For instance, a "mand" can be used to request something tangible like a toy or snack, or it can be used to request an action such as "help me" or "stop."

A "tact" can describe not just objects, but also sounds or smells. An "echoic" can repeat anything from a single sound to an entire sentence.

Intraverbals can take many forms, such as answering questions or making comments that are related to the topic at hand. Textuals and transcriptions can involve reading and writing any word or phrase.

It is important for therapists to identify which verbal operants their clients need more work on in order to develop their language skills further.

By using these operants in creative ways during therapy sessions, individuals with ASD can learn how to communicate with others effectively and become better equipped for success in social settings.

Why Verbal Operants Exist In ABA Therapy

The reason why verbal operants are so important in ABA therapy is because they allow individuals with ASD to communicate their wants and needs effectively.

Verbal communication is a crucial aspect of socialization, and for individuals with ASD who may struggle with social interaction, teaching them how to use verbal operants can be life-changing.

Verbal operants also play a key role in helping individuals with ASD develop problem-solving skills.

For example, when an individual is able to use intraverbals to answer questions or make comments related to the topic at hand, they are demonstrating their ability to think critically and creatively about the information presented.

Furthermore, by using textuals and transcriptions during therapy sessions, individuals with ASD can also develop literacy skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Learning how to read and write effectively can open up new opportunities for communication and self-expression.

In short, the use of verbal operants in ABA therapy is essential for promoting effective communication, problem-solving skills, and literacy development in individuals with ASD.

By mastering these basic units of language, individuals with ASD can become more confident communicators and better equipped for success in social settings.

What Verbal Operant Should You Teach First?

When it comes to teaching verbal operants in ABA therapy, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The verbal operant that a therapist chooses to teach first will depend on the individual's current level of language development and their specific needs.

That being said, many therapists choose to start with mands because they are often the most immediately useful for individuals with ASD. Being able to communicate their wants and needs effectively is crucial for socialization and can help reduce frustration and challenging behaviors.

However, other verbal operants such as tacts or echoics may be more appropriate for individuals who already have some basic communication skills but need help expanding their vocabulary or improving their pronunciation.

The important thing is for therapists to assess each individual's unique needs and tailor their approach accordingly. By using a combination of different verbal operants, therapists can help individuals with ASD develop a well-rounded set of language skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

In Summary

In conclusion, verbal operants are an important component of ABA therapy. They are the basic units of language that allow individuals to communicate with others. By teaching individuals new verbal operants, therapists can help them develop their language skills and improve their overall quality of life.