Advancements in Verbal Behavior

AVB Press was started in June, 2008 by Mark Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D (www.marksundberg.com). The primary focus of AVB Press is to publish materials on the application of B. F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior to language assessment and intervention for persons with autism or other intellectual disabilities. AVB Press offers both paper and electronic versions of the VB-MAPP.

The VB-MAPP

The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: The VB-MAPP — A language and social skills assessment program for children with autism or other intellectual disabilities.

From the founder and Past Editor of the journal The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, and the original co-author of the ABLLS and Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities, the VB-MAPP offers a new generation of language assessment for children and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities. The VB-MAPP is a criterion-referenced assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skill tracking system based on applied behavior analysis (ABA), Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior (VB), and established developmental milestones. The assessment program provides a clear and accurate picture of the whole child, including the child’s abilities, possible language, and learning barriers, and the type of instructional model and educational setting that might best suit an individual child. The overall program contains the following five components.

The Milestones Skills Assessment – Assesses 170 milestones balanced across 3 levels of typical development (0-18 months; 18-30 months; and 30-48 months). The milestones are quantifiable and measurable and can be used to document baseline and skill acquisition. The milestones cover 16 key domains (e.g., mand, tact, intraverbal, listener, visual perceptual, play, social, and early academic skills). One of the 16 areas, the echoic, includes the Early Echoic Skills Assessment (EESA) developed by Dr. Barbara Esch, SLP-CCC, BCBA-D.

The Barriers Assessment – Assesses 24 language and learning barriers that may be preventing a child of any age from making progress (e.g., prompt dependency, non-compliance, behavior problems, impaired minds, demand weakens motivation, sensory defensiveness). The VB-MAPP Guide contains an analysis of the results from each of the 24 areas and general suggestions that can be used to help establish intervention priorities.

The Transition Assessment – Assesses 18 different areas that can assist the IEP team in making a transition and educational placement decisions for a child (e.g., overall Milestones and Barriers scores, social skills, group learning, independent work, self-care skills, adaptability to change). The VB-MAPP Guide contains an analysis of the results from each of the 18 areas and general suggestions for types of educational services.

The Skills Task Analysis and Tracking System – Contains over 900 skills that support the Milestones. For example, for the mand 15 Milestones are identified for purposes of assessment, but the Task Analysis contains a total of 93 individual manding skills that can provide suggestions for daily mand training. Some of the tasks are earlier steps toward the targeted milestone, while others are additional skills that are independent of the milestones but contribute to the overall development of the targeted domain. Also, VB-MAPP task analysis section contains a tracking system that can allow for the easy identification of which skills have been acquired.

Placement and IEP Goals – Suggestions for programming are presented for each of the 170 Milestones. This section describes how to analyze a child’s VB-MAPP in order to establish priorities and the most effective intervention program. For example, once a child reaches a specific Milestone, what’s next? The focus is on establishing a balance among all the skills, establishing their functional use in the natural environment, promoting generative and spontaneous usage of the skills, and verbal and social integration with other children. In addition, a variety of potential IEP goals are presented for each section, at each developmental level.

Each VB-MAPP Full Set contains an individual child’s scoring Protocol booklet and an assessor’s Guide. The Protocol contains the forms necessary for conducting the assessment, along with a task analysis that provides further breakdowns of the milestones skills, as well as additional skills that can support the development of skills within a specific domain. The VB-MAPP Guide contains the instructions for conducting the assessment, the scoring criteria, the interpretation of the assessments, and the Placement Guide with IEP goals. For those working with multiple children additional Protocols are necessary, but not additional Guides. The Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities book describes the intervention procedures that can be used to develop the skills identified in the VB-MAPP.

Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities

Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities is the foundation for anyone looking to implement a Verbal Behavior program.

Based on B.F. Skinners behavioral analysis of language and the extensive body of empirical research that supports it, Teaching Language presents a concrete language assessment and intervention program. Relying on the notion of errorless teaching, this manual explains the theory and methodology behind the Verbal Behavior approach to teaching children language. The first section of the book provides information regarding preparation for language intervention, including a brief language assessment with an interpretive guide in order to determine the best place to start intervention according to an individual child’s needs. There is also information on augmentative communication and how to assess it’s importance and necessity, as well as the form it should take. Section Two focuses on the development of initial communication skills for nonverbal children while Section Three focuses on teaching more advanced language and social skills. Section Four presents issues relevant to the implementation of a language program in a child’s natural and school environments. There are a variety of data sheets and tracking forms to guide you throughout the book.

The Authors

Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Mark Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D received his doctorate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University (1980) under the direction of Dr. Jack Michael. He is the author of the VB-MAPP, and co-author of the original ABLLS and the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. He has published over 50 professional papers and 6 book chapters. He is the founder and past editor of the journal The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, a twice past-president of The Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis, a past-chair of the Publication Board of ABAI, and has served on the Board of Directors of the B. F. Skinner Foundation.

Dr. Sundberg has given hundreds of conference presentations and workshops nationally and internationally, and taught 80 undergraduate and graduate courses on behavior analysis, verbal behavior, sign language, and child development. He is a licensed psychologist with over 40 years of experience. Dr. Sundberg’s latest publication is a book chapter titled “Verbal Behavior” in Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd ed.) by Cooper, Heron, & Heward (2020). His awards include the 2001 “Distinguished Psychology Department Alumnus Award” from Western Michigan University, and the 2013 “Jack Michael Outstanding Contributions in Verbal Behavior Award” from ABAI’s Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group.

Barbara Esch, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CCC-SLP

Barbara Esch, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CCC-SLP, is a behavior analyst and speech pathologist with over 30 years of experience in behavioral interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities.

She has worked in school, home, clinic, and hospital settings. Her workshops, training symposia, and research have been presented in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia and focus on the use of behavioral procedures to improve speech, language, and feeding skills for individuals of all ages with a wide range of medical and educational diagnoses. Dr. Esch received her Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University and her M.A. in Speech Pathology from Michigan State University.

She is the author of the Early Echoic Skills Assessment, part of the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: VB-MAPP (Sundberg, 2014). She is the founder and past chairperson of the Speech Pathology Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. Her research on behavioral treatments for early speech acquisition appears in The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Dr. Esch is co-owner of Esch Behavioral Consultants, Inc., a consulting company specializing in behavioral treatments for individuals with severe communication delays.

James W. Partington Ph.D., BCBA-D 

James received his doctorate degree from Florida State University (1981) under the direction of Dr. Jon Bailey. He is the co-founder (along with Mary Ann Powers, Ph.D., BCBA-D) of Behavior Analysts, Inc.

He is a licensed psychologist with more than 45 years of experience working with children with autism or developmental disabilities.

Prior to co-founding Behavior Analysts, Inc., Dr. Partington taught undergraduate and graduate level courses in psychology and behavior analysis at a variety of academic institutions.

He is the co-author along with Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D of the original version of the ABLLS assessment program and the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities (1998). He is the sole author of the ABLLS-R.