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Verbal Behavior: A Review of Verbal Developmental Capabilities from Listener to Speaker Kathy Matthews, Ph.D., LBA, BCBA-D Faison School and Centers of.

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Presentation on theme: "Verbal Behavior: A Review of Verbal Developmental Capabilities from Listener to Speaker Kathy Matthews, Ph.D., LBA, BCBA-D Faison School and Centers of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Verbal Behavior: A Review of Verbal Developmental Capabilities from Listener to Speaker Kathy Matthews, Ph.D., LBA, BCBA-D Faison School and Centers of Excellence Richmond, Virginia

2 Goals To describe verbal behavior To describe verbal developmental capabilities To describe the “Listener” To describe the “Speaker”

3 Outcomes Audience will acquire an overview of information related to verbal behavior, verbal developmental capabilities, and listener and speaker repertoires

4 References Skinner’s (1957) Verbal Behavior Greer’s (2008) Verbal Behavior Analysis All of the information in this presentation is taken directly from Skinner and Greer’s texts including verbatim quotes, examples and explanations. If you need a particular citation, page number, etc. please contact me via for that information.

5 What is Verbal Behavior? A functional account of communication during which instances of verbalizations, vocal or otherwise, are identified by their effect on a listener. Key Components: Verbal Communities Mediation (Skinner, 1957)

6 Direct contact with an immediate world does not teacher a person to behave verbally Language, verbal practices and the conditions that give them meaning, requires a culture…something we call a “verbal community”. The presence of verbal communities indicates that human beings may be predisposed to behave verbally. But a predisposition to behave does not insure that the behavior will occur, and its occurrence, if it occurs, does not explain how forms of that behavior are shaped by an extant community. (Skinner, 1957)

7 Verbal Community The constant complaints over illiteracy and the failure to achieve prescribed standards of verbal behavior make evident that verbal behavior, this most human of human actions, is not genetically prescribed to occur properly. Effective speech requires more than biological predisposition and anatomical tools. A verbal repertoire grows up in a social world. (Skinner, 1957)

8 We “speak” within a verbal community We need others in order to be “verbal” We must consider phylogenetic factors such as nervous system, vocal musculature and and the affinity to socialize in how verbal behavior develops (Skinner, 1957)

9 Early Example From Skinner (1957) Instead of going to a drinking fountain, a thirsty man may simply “ask for a glass of water” that is, may engage in behavior which produces a certain pattern of sounds which in turn induces someone to bring him a glass of water. The sounds themselves are easy to describe in physical terms: but the glass of water reaches the speaker only as the result of a complex series of events including the behavior of a listener. The ultimate consequence, the receipt of water, bears no useful geometrical or mechanical relation to the form of the behavior of “asking for water.”

10 Why Traditional Explanations Don’t Work When analyzing language linguistically, often one gets into a cycle of explaining meanings and ideas through the use of other words and restatements of definitions. This faulty idea suggests that speech has an independent existence apart from the behavior of the speaker. Example: We have no more reason to say that a man uses the word water in asking for a drink than to say that he uses a reach in taking the offered glass. (Skinner, 1957)

11 What Verbal Behavior Offers Our first responsibility is simple description: what is the topograhpy of this subdividision of human behavior? Once that question has been answered in at least a preliminary fashion we may advance to the stage called explanation: what conditions are relevant to the occurrence of the behavior-what are the variables of which it is a function? (Skinner, 1957)

12 Simply Stated… Verbal Behavior is a functional account of language. It requires speakers and listeners. It also requires speakers to function as listeners and for listeners to function as speakers.

13 Now… Now that we understand the functional focus of language and its relationship to the environment, we can set up contingencies accordingly. We can teach language.

14 What is considered verbal? Verbal behavior is behavior reinforced through the mediation of other persons. We do not and cannot specify any one form, mode or medium. Any movement capable of affecting another organism may be verbal. (Skinner, 1957)

15 Speakers and Listeners Individuals can have a speaker repertoire AND a listener repertoire AND they can function as listeners and speakers at the same time. We often develop these repertoires separately, however they can and need to be joined to evoke a higher level of verbal behavior.

16 What are some forms of verbal behavior? Vocal Transcription Written Typed Sign

17 Speaker Verbal Operants (Skinner, 1957): Echoic An echoic repertoire is established in the child through “educational” reinforcement because it is useful to parents, teachers, and others. Mands A response of a given form is characteristically followed by a given consequence in a verbal community. Tacts A response of a given form is evoked (or at least strengthened) by a particular object or event (that response is characteristically reinforced by a verbal community).

18 Mands and Tacts Simply Put Mands specify their reinforcer Tacts result in social reinforcement

19 Verbal Operants Continued Textual Behavior A speaker under the control of a text is a reader. Intraverbal Behavior Verbal behavior under the control of other verbal behavior. Conversational Units When a speaker and listener alternate as a speaker and listener for several verbal exchanges. (Skinner, 1957)

20 Now that we know some verbal operants, how can we teach them and where do you start?

21 Greer’s Verbal Developmental Pyramid Moves from early attending responses to more developed listener and speaker repertoires. Suggestion is to focus on early mands and tacts. Even with approximations, these early behaviors will help individuals learn to manipulate the environment through mands to get their needs met and also learn to develop social interests by recruiting social attention through the tact. (Greer, 2008)

22 Early Speaker Capabilities To acquire mands and tacts, an echoic-to-mand and echoic-to-tact teaching sequencing is recommended. A target form is selected and the echoics are used to teach the function and transition quickly to an independent mand or tact.

23 Echoic to Mand Sequence (Greer, 2008) 1.Identify the form/approximation for the targeted mand. 2.Show the individual the target and provide the established echoic form (from step 1). So teacher says (echoic) and then individual repeats (echoic). 3.If the individual repeats the echoic correctly, immediately give him the target. 4.Continue steps 2 and 3 until you have 3 consecutively correct echoics. 5.Identify another preferred item/activity and offer this alongside the target. Present both and if the individual mands for the target item, give access immediately. If errors occur, go back to the echoic procedure. 6.Continue going back and forth on this sequence until mastery criterion is reached for the mand.

24 Echoic to Tact Sequence (Greer, 2008) 1.Identify the form/approximation for the targeted tact. 2.Show the individual the target and provide the established echoic form (from step 1). So teacher says (echoic) and then individual repeats (echoic). 3.If the individual repeats the echoic correctly, immediately provide social praise (may need tangibles at first but fade out quickly). 4.Continue steps 2 and 3 until you have 3 consecutively correct echoics. 5.After the 3 consecutive echoics, go to the independent tact instruction but make sure to intersperse with other stimuli. 6.If errors occur, go back to the echoic procedure. 7.Continue going back and forth on this sequence until mastery criterion is reached for the tact.

25 Advanced Speaker Capabilities Since social interactions and social interests are critical for individuals with ASD, it is important to focus on speaker programs that evoke social attention. Speaker Immersion Intensive Tact Instruction and Conversational Units are some examples. (Greer, 2008)

26 Intensive Tact Instruction Focused on fluent tacting across multiple categories with the aim of conducting 100 tacts per day. Probes are conducted in natural settings to determine if verbal operants are increasing. (Greer, 2008) Video Clip

27 Early Listener Capabilities Greer (2008) The listener is key in establishing new behavior and in developing an individual as a member of their community…not as a “taker” from his community. First and foremost step is to ensure that the individual comes under the control of others in his environment. You can probe this by assessing whether the individual makes eye contact when someone calls his name, sits next to him, walks in the room, etc. If the individual is not attending to others, you can focus on pairing reinforcement with other individuals to establish this initial behavior.

28 Listener Continued Some examples of pairing include voice and face conditioning protocols. Conditioning tactics consist of identifying a target behavior and pairing the occurrence of that behavior with a known reinforcer. You may also need to prompt and evoke the target behavior during this experience. (Greer, 2008)

29 Face and Voice Conditioning Face and Voice Conditioning help to establish looking at others and attending to voices as reinforcers. Voice conditioning is a method of pairing the sound of familiar voices (such as a recorded sample of a parent reading a book) with reinforcement. Probes are conducted before, during and after the procedure to assess progress toward early attending behaviors. (Greer, 2008)

30 Face Conditioning Sample Video

31 Advanced Listener Capabilities Once early attending behaviors are established (attending to others), individuals can begin to acquire basic listener literacy and begin to learn to imitate, follow 1-3 step directions, attend to name, etc. Listener Literacy can be checked by having these directions recorded so that the visual stimuli are absent (ensures he can only LISTEN). (Greer, 2008)

32 Advanced Listener Capabilities Continued Once basic listener literacy is established, the following tactics may help develop more advanced listening: 2D and 3D Conditioning Auditory Matching Listener Immersion (Greer, 2008)

33 Auditory Matching Video Clip

34 Speaker as Own Listener The key to advanced verbal behavior is the joining of the speaker and listener: Naming The capacity to acquire a tact and a listener response by simply hearing another person tact a stimulus. This is the capacity to respond as a speaker and listener without direct instruction. Self-Editing Ability to function as your own listener/reader without needing immediate feedback (anticipating the feedback of your audience instead). (Greer, 2008)

35 Summary Focusing on listener and speaker responses is key. Establishing fluency in the early speaker and listener repertoires is key to advancing forward. NOT focusing on developing these early on means you will create dependency with prompts. New technology and research are showing us that we can help teach individuals to learn on their own by establishing these early abilities.

36 Thank you!


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