Alphabet Soup: Understanding ABA & AVB

Chances are you’ve heard the terms Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB) more times than you can count. So what do they really mean? And are they the miracle intervention for your child?

ABA, in the most complex terms is “the application of the principles of learning and motivation from Behavior Analysis, and the procedures and technology derived from those principles, to the solution of problems of social significance.”

In the simplest terms?  It’s using learning to change behavior. And AVB?  Basically the same thing except it’s all about language.

At Trellis, we use the principals of ABA and an AVB methodology to lay the foundation for success in school and life. We integrate ABA principles into all the work we do at Trellis and we primarily focus on using AVB in our Trellis School and Love2Learn programs.

How we use the principals of ABA

The goal of most families is to have children develop the basic communication, social and life skills they need to be successful. That’s what we focus on. Using ABA, we’re able to help teach new behaviors by breaking skills down into small, understandable steps that are taught separately. Once each step is learned separately they are strung together into a targeted behavior or task. For example, a child working on building a pre-requisite skill of sitting at a table might start with short intervals, gradually increasing the time and the seatmates. The goal isn’t just to have the child sit at a table during a group session, but to be an engaged participating member at the end.

How we use AVB

Using words, having conversations, reading and writing. We know that’s what you want for your child. AVB is a natural next step as children and students at Trellis slowly begin to trust staff and beginning developing activities. As activities are established, instructors are providing learners with all the language needed to talk about the items, what the items do, the parts of the items, etc. This is what facilitates communication. Motivation is key in this process. When a learner is motivated by an item or something fun that an instructor can do with the item, they will be motivated to “demand” or request that item or activity again. Multiple opportunities for the learner to communicate those “wants” are contrived throughout an activity, evoking the learner’s communication and repeated opportunities to practice that communication.

At Trellis, we emphasize the AVB methodology because aside from the scientific evidence, we believe that communication is the foundation for learning, and by rigorously focusing on communication we can better support a child functioning in school and the community.

AVB gives children the language they need to engage in social situations within the school and community. They are able to participate in those situations because of their increased ability to communicate their wants and needs. Also, for some, an increase in communication can contribute to reductions in interfering or challenging behavior.  Trellis understands that children need various ways to communicate too, that’s why we teach using a variety of modalities, such as vocal communication, sign language, through the use of pictures, or using an augmentative communication system (e.g., software on an iPad or another voice output device).

These are very simple explanations of what ABA and AVB are and how we try to integrate the principles into our work at Trellis. We invite you to read more on our website or contact us to find out more about how and why we use these interventions to create fun, motivating and individualized programs for each of our learners.

Another Study Supports ABA & Early Intervention

A new literature review from Vanderbilt finds more evidence backing behavioral intervention for kids with autism.

In research supported federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, researchers at Vanderbilt University reviewed 65 research studies on behavior interventions. They concluded that intensive early intervention  based on the principles of applied behavior analysis “can significantly affect the development of some children with ASD.”

h Read the Report

What is the VB-MAPP?

Put simply, the VB-MAPP is a tool that we use at Trellis to assess and develop learning plans for young learners with autism.

Based on the work of renowned behaviorist B.F. Skinner, the VB-MAPP or Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program is a criterion-referenced assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skill tracking system that is designed for children with autism, and other individuals who demonstrate language delays. There are three core components to the VB-MAPP:

  1. The Milestones Assessment includes 170 measurable learning and language milestones which are designed to assess a learners existing verbal and related skills. We use this tool to help us design a individualized intervention strategy for our learners.
  2. The Barriers Assessments helps identify the specific challenges a learner is having with learning and language acquisitions.
  3. The Transition Assessment helps assess whether a learner is ready to move to a less restrictive learning environment. We use it to understand how our learners are progressing toward their goals.
  4. The Task Analysis and Skills Tracking forms the basis for daily skill building. There are over 900 skills in this tool.

Collectively, these four components of the VB-MAPP represent over 30 years of research, clinical work, field-testing, and revisions (Partington & Sundberg, 1998; Sundberg, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1990; Sundberg & Michael, 2001; Sundberg & Partington, 1998; Sundberg, Ray, Braam, Stafford, Rueber, & Braam, 1979).

At Trellis, we often use the VB-MAPP to determine where a young learner is functioning in comparison to neurotypical children at the same chronological age.  Skills and goals are then chosen based on that assessment and implemented throughout each session.  In the Trellis School, additional goals from the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards are selected and taught.  Data on all skills, goals/ and ehaviors are tracked on the students’ weekly data sheets.