Verbal Behavior and Autism Intervention Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA [email protected] Introduction • • • • • • • • • • • • • What constitutes a “behavioral approach” to treatment of children with autism? Consumers must be confused. There are many models out there, often quite different from each other, but all claiming to be a “behavioral approach” DTT Lovaas model CARD model ABA Pivotal response training VB approach CABAS Competent learner model Natural language paradigm Milieu language training Incidental teaching Introduction • • • • • • • • In addition, there are many other approaches and treatments such as... Floortime RDI Son-Rise Holding therapy TEACCH Secretion Auditory training • • • • • • • • • • Sensory integration Weighted jackets Deep pressure Special diets Vitamins Medications Swimming with dolphins Decompression chambers Chelation Facilitated communication What Constitutes a Verbal Behavior Approach to Autism Treatment? • • • • • • • • • The basic teaching procedures consist of the standard methodology found in applied behavior analysis (e.g., Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 1987) Prompting Fading Pairing Modeling Shaping Chaining Differential reinforcement procedures (e.g., DRO, DRI, DRL) Intermittent reinforcement procedures (e.g., FR, VR, FI, VI) What Constitutes a Verbal Behavior Approach to Autism Treatment? • • • • • • • • • • Extinction procedures (e.g., planned ignoring) Punishment procedures (e.g., reprimands) Generalization Discrimination training Errorless learning Transfer of stimulus control Task analysis Fluency procedures Contingency contracting Token economies What Constitutes a Verbal Behavior Approach to Autism Treatment? • • • • • • • • • • • Additional procedural elements include, for example.... Individualized assessment and intervention program Frequent opportunities to respond Use of discrete trial teaching procedures Incidental & natural environment teaching procedures Data collection Interspersel techniques Behavioral momentum techniques Peer and social interaction Functional analyses On-going analyses of performance by formally trained behavior analysts What Constitutes a Verbal Behavior Approach to Autism Treatment? • • • • The major difference between the verbal behavior programs and the majority of discrete trial (DTT) and ABA programs available in the literature is the conceptual analysis of language that underlies the assessment and curriculum used in each program How is language measured, classified, and assessed? What is the unit of analysis? What causes the emission of words and sentences? How is language acquired? What causes language errors and deficits? Most DTT/ABA programs are based on the traditional linguistic classification system of expressive and receptive language, and the associated vernacular, concepts, and theoretical constructs related to language, which has its roots in cognitive psychology The verbal behavior approach employs Skinner’s (1957) functional analysis of language, which has its roots in radical behaviorism Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior • • • • • Language is learned behavior under the functional control of environmental contingencies “What happens when a man speaks or responds to speech is clearly a question about human behavior and hence a question to be answered with the concepts and techniques of psychology as an experimental science of behavior” (Skinner, 1957, p. 5) The analysis of verbal behavior involves the same behavioral principles and concepts that make up the analysis of nonverbal behavior. No new principles of behavior are required Chapter 1 of Verbal Behavior is titled “A Functional Analysis of Verbal Behavior” In Chapter 2 Skinner identifies the dependent and independent variables for a functional analysis of verbal behavior A Functional Analysis of Verbal Behavior: The Basic Principles of Operant Behavior Stimulus Control (SD) Motivating Operation (MO/EO) Response Reinforcement Punishment Extinction Conditioned reinforcement Conditioned punishment Intermittent reinforcement Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior • • • • • The traditional linguistic classification of words, sentences, and phrases as expressive and receptive language blends important functional distinctions between types of operant behavior, and appeals to cognitive explanations for the causes of language behavior (Skinner, 1957, Chapter 1) Thus, in Chapter 1 of VB Skinner recommends against what has become the linguistic foundation of most DTT and ABA programs While there are many conceptual and practical distinctions between a cognitive and behavior analysis of language, this presentation will focus on: Research on the distinction between the mand, tact, and intraverbal A functional analysis of verbal assessment and intervention Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior • • • • • • • At the core of Skinner’s analysis of language is the distinction between the mand, tact, and intraverbal (traditionally all classified as “expressive language”) Is there conceptual and empirical support for this distinction? Skinner identified three separate sources of antecedent control for these verbal operants EO/MO control------->Mand Nonverbal SD--------->Tact Verbal SD-------------->Intraverbal In cognitive analyses of language these three sources are commonly grouped together under the rubric of “referent or meaning” Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior • • The empirical question is: Are these three antecedent variables functionally separate, or is there no value in making this distinction? From a clinical standpoint, the two most common language problems demonstrated by children with autism that I have encountered over the past 32 years is a defective mand repertoire and/or a defective intraverbal repertoire, despite often having strong tact and listener discrimination repertoires The Distinction Between the Mand and the Tact • • • • Based on the distinction between the establishing operation (EO/MO) and stimulus control (SD) as separate sources of control Skinnerian psychology (“radical behaviorism,” see Skinner, 1974) has always maintained that motivational control is different from stimulus control In Behavior of Organisms (Skinner, 1938) Skinner devoted two chapters to the treatment of motivation; Chapter 9 titled “Drive” and Chapter 10 titled “Drive and Conditioning: The Interaction of Two Variables” Skinner also made it clear in the section titled “Drive (is) Not a Stimulus” (pp. 374-376) that motivation is not the same as discriminative, unconditioned, or conditioned stimuli The Distinction Between the Mand and the Tact • • Keller and Schoenfeld (1950) titled Chapter 9 “Motivation” and further developed Skinner’s point, “A drive is not a stimulus” (p. 276), and suggested “a new descriptive term... ‘establishing operation’” (p. 271) In Verbal Behavior (1957) Skinner had a full chapter on motivation and language (The Mand), and throughout the book provided many elaborations on motivational control -- as an antecedent variable The Distinction Between the Mand and the Tact • • • Holland and Skinner’s (1961) book contained four chapters on motivation; Chapters 7: “Deprivation,” 8: “Emotion I,” 9: “Avoidance and Escape Behavior,” and 10: “Emotion II” Millenson (1968) contained four chapters on motivation and presented an excellent summary of the relevant empirical research (p. 364-384); Chapters 15: “Motivation I,” 16: “Motivation II,”17: “Aversive Contingencies,” and 18: “Emotional Behavior” However, the topic of motivation was for the most part dropped from the first generation of Applied Behavior Analysis/Behavior Modification textbooks that followed Millenson’s book (e.g., Fantino & Logan, 1979; Kazden, 1975; Martin & Pear, 1978; Powers & Osborne, 1976; Whaley & Malott, 1971) The Distinction Between the Mand and the Tact • • • • In explaining what happen to the analysis of motivation in behavior analysis, Michael (1993) pointed out, “In applied behavior analysis or behavior modification, the concept of reinforcement seems to have taken over much of the subject matter that was once considered a part of the topic of motivation” (p. 191) There was a shift from the analysis of motivation as an antecedent variable to motivation as a consequence In addition, motivation as a topic of research was absent from the behavioral journals. For example, The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis contained no entries for “establishing operations” or “motivation” in the cumulative index (1978) covering the first 10 years of publication During the next 10 years (1979-1988) there were still no entries for “establishing operation.” However, there were 5 entries for “motivation,” but they all involved the use of motivation as a consequence, rather than as an antecedent variable The Distinction Between the Mand and the Tact • • • Motivation as an antecedent variable has returned to behavior analysis textbooks and now is a common topic in JABA thanks to Jack Michael, Brian Iwata, Wayne Fisher, and others The JABA index for the years 1999-2005 contains 29 entries for the EO, and 2 for the MO (motivating operations) The 2nd Edition of the Cooper, Heron, & Heward book Applied Behavior Analysis contains a full chapter on motivation as well as a full chapter on Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior Clinical Value of EO and the Mand to Children with autism • Many children with autism have absent or defective mand repertoires • Manding is a critical part of a typical child’s language development • Tact training does not typically produce manding in early learners • A functional analysis of the child’s verbal behavior often reveals that the response called a mand or a request is not under EO control, but rather SD control, thus not, by definition a mand Defective Mand - Ally EO Does not evoke a mand ______________________________________________________ EO Does not evoke a mand Object ______________________________________________________ Intraverbal prompt (e.g. “Sign cookie”) Evokes a response Imitative prompt (not a mand) (ASL sign) ____________________________________________________________________ Verbal Stimulus Control and Verbal Conditional Discriminations in ABA • • • • Research on verbal stimulus control, conditional discriminations, and especially verbal conditional discriminations is absent from the applied journals A review of the JABA indexes from 1968 to 2005 shows only 5 entries for conditional discriminations, and none for verbal conditional discriminations Thus, like the EO and the mand, the antecedent variables that evoke intraverbal behavior have not been a focus of behavioral research However, there is no argument that much of our verbal behavior is controlled by verbal SDs (e.g., answering questions) Conclusion • • • • There is a rapidly growing body of empirical research supporting various aspects of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior There are no contradictory lines of research on the distinction between the mand, tact, and intraverbal The VB approach is just behavior analysis The “VB approach” shares the same procedures and methods as the other behavioral approaches, but is based on a functional rather than structural analysis of language Conclusion • • • • • • • Should we continue to disseminate verbal behavior procedures? Sundberg & Michael (2001) suggested five major contributions that Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior could make to the existing DTT/ABA programs for children with autism: Mand training Motivation (EO) as an independent variable in language training Intraverbal training Automatic reinforcement A functional analysis of verbal responses, verbal errors, language assessment, and curriculum development Conclusion • • • • • • • • • • • Is there enough empirical support for the dissemination of these suggestions? Mand training Yes Motivation (EO) as an independent variable Yes Intraverbal training Yes Automatic reinforcement No (but, see Tim Vollmer’s presentation at 11am this morning) A functional analysis of verbal responses, verbal errors, language assessment, and curriculum development Yes Conclusion • “The ‘VB approach’ is simply normative applied behavior analysis with a few refinements. That is, it incorporates all of the standard methodology of applied behavior analysis, but it explicitly adopts Skinner's interpretive framework for analyzing verbal contingencies.