Let’s Learn ABA: Listener Responding

Hi BTL Fam!

Do you remember the game “Simon Says”? You know the one where “Simon” tells you to do different things and if you don’t follow the directions, then you’re out! We have probably all played this game at least once in our lives. Unfortunately, many kiddos with ASD have difficulties playing this game because they struggle with listener responding skills. As a result, they have a tough time interacting with others. However, lucky for us, during our ABA sessions we get to play our own game of “Simon Says” to improve these skills!

Think of a time you might have asked your child (or loved one with ASD) to complete a simple task. Such as “go get your shoes” and they walk away to their room but start playing with their toys. Or other times you may ask them to clap their hands and they touch their nose instead. These are often behaviors we see when an individual is having a difficult time with their listener responding skills. We define Listener Responding as:

Following a given instruction, identifying an item, activity, event, or scene based off of details.

Important Note: Listener responding is not any type of verbal or vocal response! It is only a physical response to follow a given instruction.

Listener Responding is a type of receptive language and falls into our verbal operants series.

You may be asking yourself “how does responding to someone have anything to do with verbal skills?”. The answer is simple, responding to verbal language is a key component to understanding verbal language. If a child is able to give directions but unable to follow directions from others, they will be lacking skills needed to interact with those around them.

Within our ABA sessions, we begin to build these skills by starting small with 1-step directions. We then build up our learner’s skills by expanding the different directions given. For example, we may start with colors such as “touch blue”, “point to red”, “where is green?” and expand these to “give me blue car”, “Touch the red circle”, “where is the green house?”. We build upon these skills with the introduction of complex directions such as 2 step directions like “go to the table and get the glue”. Followed by the introduction of 3-step directions or other directions that may take additional time or closer listening!  By exposing kiddos to a variety of different directions, we increase their listener responding skills while also expanding their knowledge of the world around them!

Let’s go over some examples of Listener Responding!

Direction: “Give me your shoes” – Learner responds by giving adult a pair of shoes!

Direction: “Go to the table” – Learner responds by going to the table

Direction: “Clap your hands and touch your nose” – Learner responds by clapping hands and touching their nose.

Non-Examples (These are NOT listener responding)

Direction: “Tell Me your name” -Learner responds with “Conner”

Direction: “How does a cow go?” -Learner respond with “moo”

Direction: “What color is your favorite color?”- Learner signs “red”

***These would be classified as intraverbals****

REMEMBER: Listener responding does not require a verbal/vocal response! 


Verbal Operants

As we continue to learn about verbal operants, don’t forget to review our others posts on Mands, Tacts, Echoics and Intraverbals. You may find it beneficial to check out our post regarding verbal operants with a background on why and how we work on these different skills!

By: Heidi Mann, BCBA, Outreach Consultant

Category: Let’s Learn ABA