Let’s Learn ABA: Intraverbals

Hi BTL Fam!

Intraverbals are next on our list of Verbal Operants. Remember to check out our other posts over mands, tacts, echoics, and verbal operants!

Intraverbal responses are often the next step for our kiddos after learning to make a request, labeling items, and repeating words or phrases. Think of an intraverbal as the peak of the pyramid. These are often the most complex to teach when it comes to verbal behavior. Intraverbals are often known as a conversation. They can be defined as:

A vocally emitted or signed response that is evoked by a verbal stimulus, in which items are not present.

Many parents view intraverbals as one of the most important goals of ABA therapy. Some parents may state “They can tell me what they want, but won’t have a conversation with me” or others ask, “Why doesn’t my child respond to my questions?”. These concerns may be evoked if your child struggles with intraverbals. To most people, a response to a conversation may seem natural. However, individuals with autism often struggle to find the right words or phrases we commonly use to answer simple questions.

When teaching intraverbals, we always start small. This may include working on finishing fun songs or sentences. Such as Hip, Hip, ______ (HORRAY), or The itsy bitsy _____ (Spider!). By starting here, we work our way up to more complex sentences like “What is your name?”, “Who is your mommy?”, etc. When increasing intraverbals, we are able to increase communication skills and help our patients interact with the words around them!

Intraverbals are important to work on for all of our patients from childhood to adulthood! Even when a child has the skill of answering questions and engaging in conversations, we can always elaborate on intraverbals more. Think of important information such as “what is your number?”, “what is your address” or even functional living skills like “where do you like to eat?” ,”what store can we buy milk from?”, or “who would we call when there is a fire?”.

A common question that may arise is “How do you intertwine intraverbals with a non-verbal child”. If we look at the intraverbal definition again, we can see that it may also include a signed response. Therefore, if we have established skills with the other verbal operants (mands, tacts, etc.), we can also start to teach intraverbals with alternative forms of communication. For example, we may ask “what do you read” and the learner may sign “book”. Based upon the definition of an intraverbal, this is still considered intraverbal behavior. We can intertwine many different intraverbal responses with an alternative form of communication. Intraverbals give us an opportunity to expand further into multiple areas and there is never an end to the skills we can build!

Written By:

Heidi Mann, BCBA, Outreach Consultant