Updated: May 14, 2019
Lovaas ABA and ABA-VB are both based on the theory that behavior is learned through feedback, and therefore can be shaped over time. If you happen to be wondering what’s different about ABA-VB, we hope that this article can help you understand better!
Firstly, let’s talk about how Lovaas ABA is typically conducted. ABA involves breaking a skill down into simple, easily learned parts and then reinforcing the desired behavior of the child, so that he/she is likely to repeat that action. A technique commonly used in Lovaas ABA is discrete trial training, and when a child has mastered a skill, the therapist then tries to teach the child to generalise from there.
Meanwhile, Verbal Behavior, as its name suggests, places heavy emphasis on verbal language. More specifically, it focuses on the functional use of language rather than just teaching language itself. A function also means the purpose of a label-- how learning the label of item can benefit the child by directly satisfying his needs. Teaching him to say “I want phone” will allow him to get to play on the phone, which of course is a great accomplishment. However, it does not guarantee his ability to manipulate words into sentences and understand that language is not something that is stagnant.
With the teaching of labels in ABA, a child may be able to identify a phone as “phone” when he sees one (or even a picture of a phone), but without understanding the purpose of this label, he may not be able to use it in a sentence to express what he wants. The child will only be automatically motivated to use verbal behavior upon realising what a simple but highly effective communication tool it is to get their message across.
In addition, VB does not recommend the reliance on communication aids such as Picture Exchange (child points to a picture that is symbolic of whatever they want, e.g. toilet, iPad, biscuit) nor the reliance on structured systems such as token boards to give rewards. The main aim is to cultivate the habit of expressing using of words, not just gestures or pointing, and to kindle the curiosity and motivation to engage in an activity not just for the reward. Both of the above are crucial life skills that will benefit them in the long run.
You will notice that VB sessions are more lively, and less repetitive, and will be able to notice a natural flow to it. When therapy is naturalistic, there is higher likelihood of the child generalizing. It is also better if he does not see it as work if you integrate learning into something that he likes. For instance, if the child loves playdough, you could teach the names of colours with playdough. If he likes colouring, you could teach him to write the alphabet with colour pencils instead just so that learning isn’t something dreadful for him. More often than not, therapists also take on the role of a friend so the child is more motivated with someone he has an attachment to.
Last but not least, in VB, we take particular notice when a child repeatedly struggles with a task and then try to pinpoint the reason, rather than just repeating the trials until the child finally gets it right. The task may not be suited for the child’s level of comprehension yet, so we would need to add more targets as stepping stones to reach our desired goal.
A method that sets VB apart from Lovaas ABA is the use of errorless while teaching. Errorless is used when a task is deemed too difficult for the child, whereby the response will most surely be correct. This teaches the child while eliminating the stress of them making mistakes, since we believe that a stress-free environment is the best way for the child to learn. This will result in smoother transitions into the next level.
Hope that this article has been helping for you to draw the distinction between ABA-VB and Traditional Lovaas ABA. At the end of the day, finding the a good therapist to conduct the right therapy methods together with strong intervention support at home will be the most effective way to ensure results for your child over time.