Verbal Behavior Analysis: Inducing and Expanding New Verbal Capabilities in Children with Language Delays

Prentice Hall
R. Douglas Greer / Denise E. Ross  
Total pages
May 2007
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Verbal Behavior Analysis: Inducing and Expanding New Verbal Capabilities in Children with Language Delays
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Verbal Behavior Analysis describes newly identified  tools to provide verbal capabilities to children who have language delays or who lack language. This book assists teachers and parents in their efforts to help children produce novel and spontaneous verbal functions, acquire language incidentally, and become socially verbal. 


This book responds to the large demand for effective language development tools for children with no language and severe language delays related to autism and other disabilities by providing practitioners with the means to advance verbal development.  Step-by-step protocols describe how to move children from pre-listeners to listeners, non-speakers to speakers, speakers to readers and writers, and from non-social to socially verbal individuals.  The procedures are derived from numerous experiments and applications with children in three countries, and are based on Skinner's (1957) theory of language function and on research findings that extended the theory to verbal development.  The authors synthesize research published across several different journals, including many new findings, in ways that provide readers with the current state of the science of verbal behavior and its application to children with real needs.  While the book emphasizes the vocal production of speech, the procedures are applicable to all forms of language (signs, pictures, voice-generating devices).  The book includes an extensive glossary of terms from behavior analysis and verbal behavior analysis.  The instructor's manual provides a course outline, quizzes, and protocols for training professionals to use the procedures with fidelity in applied settings. 


If you are a professor accustomed to receiving review copies, we regret that due to the limited number of appropriate courses we are unable to provide review copies of this title.


  • Written specifically for those with a background in applied behavior analysis.
  • Describes how to teach children to be literate listeners, reducing the numbers of instructional times required to teach basic skills from four to ten times (Chapter 3).
  • Provides practitioners with the means to induce speaker capabilities or functional language in children who are nonverbal (Chapter 4).
  • Provides practitioners with the means to help children to become socially verbal and engage in social interactions with their peers and adults (Chapter 5).
  • Provides practitioners with the procedures to teach children who are not observational learners to become observational learners  (Chapters 5 and 7).
  • Provides practitioners with the procedures to teach children to acquire novel language and language usage incidentally, allowing children to expand their language without direct instruction  (Chapters 3, 5, and 6).
  • Children learn to prefer books in free time and learn to read, as theymove from emergent speakers to readers   (Chapter 6).
  • Introduces a verbal developmental scheme to guide instruction.  Practitioners can determine which children need particular interventions and when they need them, along with alternative tactics and strategies for solving learner problems  (Chapters 2 and 7).

Table of Contents

Chapter 1:  Verbal Behavior Analysis and Verbal Development Introduction to Verbal Behavior Analysis The Relation Between Verbal Behavior Analysis and Basic and Applied Behavior Analysis Protocols for Inducing New Verbal Capabilities Selecting a Verbal Topography: Linguistic and Verbal Behavior Contributions Research in Verbal Behavior Analysis Developmental Milestones in Verbal Behavior Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1 Endnotes


Chapter 2: Teaching and Learning Verbal Operants and Verbal Developmental Capabilities: Definitions and Measurement Selecting Verbal Forms and Functions for Instruction Conducting and Recording Probes     Probe Mastery Criterion, Data Collection and Graphing Presenting and Measuring Learn Units     Presenting Learn Units Recording and Graphing Verbal Behavior     Training Graphs     Generalization Graphs Providing and Measuring Accurate Instructional Decisions Research Based Tactics for Intervention     General Tactics     Generic Pre-Listener-to-Speaker Tactics     Generic Tactics for Children with Reader-Writer Capabilities     Generic Tactics for Teaching Teachers, Parents, and Behavior Analysts The Learn Unit Context and Learn Unit Components The Decision Protocol:  An Algorithm for Analyzing the Source of Learning Obstacles      Identification of Decision Opportunities     Trend Determination     Learn Unit Context Analysis     Selection of the Tactic     Implementation of the Tactic Details of the Analytic Algorithm     Strategic Questions to Ask about Motivational Conditions and Setting Events     Strategic Questions to Ask about Instructional Histories and Prerequisite Repertoires     Prerequisite stimulus control Measuring and Recording Developmental Milestones Defining Verbal Milestones Chapter 2 Summary



Chapter 3: Learning to Listen: Induction of the Listener Repertoire of Verbal Development The Listener Role in Verbal Behavior Instructional Sequence for Teaching Listener Repertoires Basic Listener Literacy      Sequence of Interventions to Induce Basic Listener Literacy (Table 3.1)      Developing Initial Instructional Control: Five Basic Attentional Programs Protocol Description for the Five Basic Attentional Programs      The Five Attentional Programs: Attention Control to Teacher      Listener Emersion Protocol to Develop Vowel-Consonant Control for Listener Responses Other Prerequisites to Basic Listener Literacy       Establishing Visual Tracking through Conditioning Eye Contact to Stimuli       Sensory Matching or Establishing The Capacity for Sameness across Senses       Conditioning Voices as Reinforcers       Auditory Matching of Words       Auditory Matching Steps Inducing the Listener Component of Naming Chapter 3 Summary

Chapter 3 Endnotes


Chapter 4: Basic Teaching Operations for Early Speaker Functions The Behavioral Functions of the Speaker Parroting and Echoics Establishing Operations and Mands Tacts Similarities and Differences between Mand and Tact Instruction Echoic-to-Mand-Procedure (Level 1 of Mand Training) Mand Function Instruction (Level 2 of Mand Instruction) Echoic to Tact Training (Level 1 of Tact Training) Tact Teaching Sequence (Level 2 of Tact Training) Autoclitics with Mands and Tacts Alternative Procedures for Teaching Echoic-to-Mand and Echoic-to-Tact Responses     Stimulus-stimulus Pairing Procedure     Rapid Motor Imitation     Speaker Immersion Inducing Transformation of Establishing Operations Across Mand and Tact Functions Naming Basic Visual Discrimination to Occasion the Advancement of Speaker and Listener Repertoires Inducing Full Naming The Importance of Tacts Procedures for Rapid Expansion of Tacts through Direct Contact with Learn Units Chapter 4 Summary

Chapter 4 Endnotes


Chapter 5: Inducing Advanced Speaker Functions and Correcting Faulty Vocal Behavior Advancing Key Verbal Capabilities Inducing and Expanding Tact and Intraverbal Capabilties      Tact Capabilities       Intraverbal Capabilities Capability 1: Acquisition of new tacts by direct learn units Capability 2: Recruitment of new tacts by using "wh" and "how" questions Capability 3: Acquisition of new tacts incidentally via naming Capability 4: Learning tacts from observation or indirect contact with contingencies received by others Learning Tacts from Observation       Instructional Procedure for Teaching Observational Learning of Tacts (Developing Tacts by Observing Others Receive Learn Units)       Pre and Post-Intervention Evaluation Probes for Observational Learning of Tacts       Yoked-contingency interventions       Joint Yoked-contingency and Peer Monitoring Protocol Intraverbal Capabilities and Social Interaction Conversational Units Capability 5: Learning Intraverbal Functions of Self-Talk Capability 6: Acquisition of conversational units and related speaker-listener exchanged       Pre and Post Assessment for Conversational Units and Sequilics Acquiring the Listener Reinforcement Component of Social Exchanges       General Game Board Description and Set-up       Part 1: I spy, 20 questions       Part 2-- 20 Questions: Tact and textual response       Part 3-- Bingo       Part 4-- Peer tutoring with the game board       Part 5-- Group instruction with the game board       Part 6-- Teaching empathy ("What can you do to help" program) Capability 7: Learning deictic functions or taking the perspective of others       Deictic Probes Production program for emission of appropriate talking Replacing Echolalia and Palilalia with Functional Verbal Behavior       Fixing Improperly Learned Control of Echoic Responses       Textual Test and Textual Stimulus Prompt Protocol       Auditory Matching to Correct Faulty Echoic Responding Replacing Vocal Stereotypy with Functional Verbal Behavior       Assessing the function of vocal stereotypy      Tact Protocol to Replace Palilalia Chapter 5 Summary

Chapter 5 Endnotes


Chapter 6: Reading and Writing: Print-Goverened and Print-Governing Verbal Behavior Scope and Purpose of the Print Control Chapter Book Conditioning Protocol    Stimulus-Stimulus Pairing Training/Test Trials for Conditioning Stimuli as Reinforcers for Observi    Probes for Conditioning Reinforcement for Observing Books Word-Picture Discrimination and Matching     Tactics for Teaching Word-Picture and Matching Discrimination      Using the Edmark ® Reading Series Reading Comprehension from Hearing One's Own Textual Responses      Multiple Exemplar Instruction Auditory and Visual Components of Reading Responses Adding Print Stimuli to the Joint Control over Speaker and Listener Responding in the Naming Capability Phonetic Reading for Textual Responding: Acquiring the Topography Using the Auditory Matching Protocol in Solving Phonetic Reading Difficulties Motivational Functions of Reading and Writing       Establishing the "Need to Read" Establishing the Topography of Writing Establishing the "Need to Write" Chapter 6 Summary



Chapter 7 Problems in Verbal Development, Current Solutions, and a Trajectory for More Solutions Foundations of Speaker and Listener Capabilities         When Attention to Teacher is Missing         When Attention to Instructional Stimuli is Missing         When the Capacity for Sameness is Missing         When the Capability to be reinforced for attention to adult voices is missing         Capability for Emitting Speaker Verbal Operants          When the Capability To Match Consonant/Vowel Combinations Of Spoken Words Is Missing Or Speech Is Faulty         When Basic Listener Literacy Is Missing         When there are Few Tacts in Repertoire: Expand the Tact Repertoire         The Listener Capability Of Naming Is Missing; Implement The Multiple Exemplar Protocol For The Listener Component Of Naming          When Capability For Observational Learning of Tacts Is Missing         When the Capability of Observational Learning of Tacts is Missing         Fixing Faulty Echoic and Intraverbal Repertoires Joining Speaker and Listener Capabilities         Speaker-as-own-listener         How to Expand Tacts Before Naming is Present Continue Rapid Expansion of the Tact Repertoire         Observational learning of tacts and the “Wh” repertoire         Expanding observational learning of tacts and the observational learning capability          Inducing Observational Learning if it is Missing Stages of Verbal Development A Note on Scientific Evidence Some Suggested Areas of Further Research

Back Cover

Help children develop language and verbal functions with the help
of Douglas Greer and Denise Ross!


“This is definitely a book I will be purchasing for my professional use. I supervise student teachers in home-based programs as well as school programs and this book will be a perfect fit for the program implementation we currently present. Greer and Ross have produced an excellent accumulation of research compilation, assessment and program descriptions for implementation by professionals training and working with autistic children and adults.” 

-Dr. Irfa Karmali, Shelby Residential and Vocational Services


 “Overall, a very technically accurate book and one well suited to accompany a practicum component in verbal behavior. Very comprehensive and [does] a good job of covering most questions, concerns and issues [for] training others to implement verbal behavior strategies. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.” 

-Janet Goodman, University of West Georgia



Responding to the overwhelming demand for effective language development tools for children with no language and severe language delays related to autism and other disabilities, Douglas Greer and Denise Ross present newly identified methods to assist teachers and parents in their efforts to provide verbal capabilities to children. In their book Verbal Behavior Analysis, Doug and Denise describe how to help children produce novel and spontaneous verbal functions, acquire language incidentally, and become socially verbal. They carefully integrate the latest research, including many new findings, and present readers with a clear outline of the current state of the science of verbal behavior and its application to children with real needs. Behavior analysts, parents, and teachers will find the procedures applicable to all forms of language (signs, pictures, and voice-generating devices) while maintaining a strong emphasis on the vocal production of a child's speech.

  • Describes how to teach children to be literate listeners, reducing the number of instructional times required to teach basic skills from four to ten times. (Chapter 3).
  • Presents the necessary procedures to teach children to become observational learners. (Chapter 5 and 7).
  • Offers practitioners methods for teaching children to acquire novel language and language usage incidentally, allowing children to expand their language without direct instruction. (Chapters 3, 5, and 6).
  • Demonstrates helping children to move from emergent speakers to readers, and learn to enjoy books in free time,  and  to read. (Chapter 6).
  • Introduces a verbal developmental scheme to guide instruction and aid practitioners in determining which children need particular interventions and when they need them, along with alternative tactics and strategies for solving learning problems. (Chapters 2 and 7).


Doug Greer is Professor of Education and Psychology and Coordinator of the Programs in Behavior Analysis at Columbia University, Teachers College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he has taught for 37 years.  He is the author of over 120 research reports (27 on verbal behavior analysis) and conceptual publications in 25 different journals, as well as 12 books, and he has sponsored 130 doctoral dissertations.  Greer is aFellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis and is the recipient of: (a) the American Psychology Association's Fed S. Keller Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education, (b) The Association for Behavior Analysis award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis, the designation of May 5 as the R. Douglas Greer day for Westchester County by the Westchester Legislature, and Distinguished Contributions to the Fred S. Keller School by The Fred S. Keller School.  He is a CABAS® Board certified as a Senior Behavior Analyst and a Senior Research Scientist and has assisted in the development of CABAS® School in the USA, Ireland, England, and Italy.  His research interests have included verbal behavior analysis, the development of verbal behavior, a learner-driven science of teaching and the organizational behavior analytic procedures to support that system, pediatric behavioral medicine, a behavioral psychology of music, and the induction of and applications of observational learning.  He has served on the editorial boards of Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of Behavioral Education, In Segnare all' Handicappato, Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Interventions (Associate Editor), European Journal of Behavior Analysis, The American Psychologist, Verplanck's Glossary and Thesaurus of The Science of Behavior, The Behavior Analyst, American Journal of Mental Deficiency, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, and the Journal of Music Therapy.  Greer has served as distinguished visiting professor at five universities in Spain (Cadiz, Almeria, Oviedo, Grenada, and Salamanca), a higher education programs in applied behavior analysis in Norway, and has lectured at the University of Wales at Bangor.  He has presented keynote addresses at conferences on behavior analysis in Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Japan, Spain, Ireland, England, Brazil, Norway, Italy, Taiwan, and Korea. 

Denise E. Ross is an associate professor of psychology and education in the Programs for Applied Behavior Analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University.  She completed her PhD at Columbia University in 1998 and taught at Florida Atlantic University before joining Teachers College in 2002.  Her research on verbal behavior and children with autism and other developmental disabilities has been published in Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, Research in Developmental Disabilities, the Journal of Behavioral Education, The Behavior Analyst Today, Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Interventions, and the Analysis of Verbal Behavior.