What is ABA / VB?


Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is based on scientific evidence provided by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies published over the past 50 years. Its success in improving the deficits commonly associated with ASD and the development of abilities has made it the standard of care for ASD.

ABA teaches socially significant behaviours and reduces those that are deemed challenging for individuals using scientifically validated principles and procedures derived from the branch of science, behaviour analysis.

It is most commonly known for being used as an intervention for children and or adults with autism, although it is used as an intervention for many other intellectual disabilities and conditions, such as addiction and eating disorders.

Using methods such as direct observation, functional analysis and measurement, relations between the environment and behaviour are established.

Practical and significant changes in behaviour are produced by making environmental changes to antecedent stimuli (things happening prior to the behaviour) and consequences (things occurring following the behaviour).

Various assessments are conducted prior to intervention, with the results of these assessments enabling the behaviour analyst to establish the environmental factors maintaining behaviour, and therefore the changes to the environment needed in order to change the behaviour.

When developing interventions, as well as environmental factors, other variables are also considered and accounted for, including physiological, physical and genetic factors.

The behaviours taught using ABA programmes are all individualised and specific to the learner. These can vary from more simplistic skills such as identifying and labelling items to more complex skills such as reading. They can also incorporate complex chains of behaviour ranging from toilet training to cooking or money management.

ABA is data driven, the data collected enables the behaviour analyst to establish when a skill is mastered and the learner can be moved on to the next step. Data is also used to establish the rate at which skills are acquired and the effectiveness of all interventions. This is crucial in both increasing skills and decreasing behaviours.


Verbal Behaviour (VB), developed by B.F. Skinner, teaches communication using the principles of ABA.

Language is broken down into different operants, each serving a different function, for example mand (requesting), tact (labeling), receptive (identifying) intraverbal (answering a question) and echoic (imitating). One word, for example milk, can function in various ways when applied to the different operants. Manding (requesting) for milk serves a different purpose and will therefore produce a different consequence to tacting (labeling) milk when we see it.

By capturing and contriving motivation, the learner is taught to not only use language to communicate but also the different functions and contexts in which language is used.

VB can be used with both verbal and non-verbal learners. Non-verbal learners may use sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or even Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, however the same principles are used in order to teach communication.