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Course Curriculum

    1. Self Assessment, Course Evaluation, and Feedback

About this course

  • $9.00
  • 1 lesson
  • 0 hours of video content

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    Handout: Verbal Behavior for SLPs

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Course Presenters

SLP/BCBA; SLP Kate Grandbois (she/her) & Amy Wonkka (she/her

Kate and Amy are co-founders of SLP Nerdcast. Kate is a dually certified SLP / BCBA who works primarily as an "AAC Specialist." She owns a private practice with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, augmentative alternative communication intervention and assessment, and consultation. Amy is an SLP who also works as an "AAC Specialist" in a public school setting. Amy's primary interests are AAC, typical language development, motor speech, phonology, data collection, collaboration, coaching, and communication partner training and support.

Episode Summary

You may be asking yourself: “But why is verbal behavior even relevant to SLPs?” This is a valid question, and we have a few answers.  

First, most SLPs (especially in pediatrics) will interact with a BCBA at some point in their careers (and the field of ABA is only growing!). We’d bet that the majority of SLPs will come across terms like “mand” and “tact” at least once in their careers. If our clients/students/patients (particularly those with autism) and their families are using these terms / being exposed to them, shouldn’t we know exactly what they mean? 

Second, verbal behavior is so often misunderstood and, in our personal experience, has been misrepresented time and again by friends and colleagues who are misinformed. When Kate started her first job as a CF she was told that verbal behavior was when a ‘BCBA took the students AAC device away and makes them speak’ - appalling! Fortunately, that’s not at all what it is, and we’d like to set the record straight once and for all.  Understanding verbal behavior can, without a doubt, enrich the clinical practice of the SLP.

Third, if we as SLPs are expected to work alongside the field of ABA, we need to collaborate effectively.  After all, effective collaboration is what is best for our clients, not to mention part of our ethical code. Collaborating with a BCBA can be challenging (for a whole host of reasons - we have an episode all about that), but incredibly important given the high percentage of comorbidity between communication and behavioral disorders.  Understanding relevant terminology like “mand” and “tact” can help you overcome a huge hurdle to successful and effective collaboration.

Learning Outcomes 

  1. Define verbal behavior and identify at least 2 components of it’s history
  2. Define at least 3 verbal operants
  3. Describe at least 2 components of verbal behavior that are relevant to the practice of speech and language pathologists

In this episode a visual was described to help explain the difference between positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. See below:


Cooper, J., Heron, T. & Heward, W., 2020. Applied Behavior Analysis. 3rd Ed. Upper Saddle River, Nj: Pearson.

Michael, J. (1985). Two kinds of verbal behavior plus a possible third. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 3, 1–4.

Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts

Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Free Press.

Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts

Sundberg, M. L. (1978b). A program for teaching verbal behavior to persons in whom language is absent or defective. Western Michigan University. Behavioral Monograph #6, Kalamazoo, MI.’

Sundberg, M. L., Michael, J., & Peterson, N. (1977). Sign language: A behavioral analysis and applications. Western Michigan University Behavioral Monograph #1.

Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177.

Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. New York: W. W. Norton.


Online Resources:

Mark Sundberg publications


Kate Grandbois financial disclosures: Kate is the owner / founder of Grandbois Therapy + Consulting, LLC and co-founder of SLP Nerdcast.  Kate Grandbois non-financial disclosures: Kate is a member of ASHA, SIG 12, and serves on the AAC Advisory Group for Massachusetts Advocates for Children. She is also a member of the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT), MassABA, the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and the corresponding Speech Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis SIG. 

Amy Wonkka financial disclosures: Kate is an employee of a public school system and co-founder of SLP Nerdcast.  Amy Wonkka non-financial disclosures: Amy is a member of ASHA, SIG 12, and serves on the AAC Advisory Group for Massachusetts Advocates for Children. 

Time Ordered Agenda:

10 minutes: Introduction, Disclaimers and Disclosures

20 minutes:  Descriptions of verbal behavior and it’s history

15 minutes:  Descriptions of the main verbal operants

10 minutes:  Description and discussion of how verbal behavior is relevant to the practice of a speech and language pathologist

5 minutes: Summary and Closing


The contents of this episode are not meant to replace clinical advice.  SLP Nerdcast, its hosts and guests do not represent or endorse specific products or procedures mentioned during our episodes unless otherwise stated.  We are NOT PhDs, but we do research our material.  We do our best to provide a thorough review and fair representation of each topic that we tackle.  That being said, it is always likely that there is an article we’ve missed, or another perspective that isn’t shared.  If you have something to add to the conversation, please email us! Wed love to hear from you!