Let’s Learn ABA: Tacts

Hi BTL Fam!

To continue with our Verbal Operants overview, we are going to review what a Tact is. You may frequently hear this term when developing language for your child. Put simply, a tact is when we label or “name” an object, person, place, thing, action, or event. A more descriptive definition may be:

 a vocally emitted or signed response that is evoked by a nonverbal stimulus that you can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel

While we want to increase the number of mands a person emits, a tact allows those we work with to interact with the world around them. Think of a child who is beginning to talk. They often label everything they see. For example, a child might see a dog and say “dog”. They may see their mother and say “mama”. We often encourage this behavior by reinforcing a child’s tact with “Yes, That IS a dog” or “Ohh you see your mommy!”.

Many individuals on the spectrum have difficulty labeling the items in their environment. Thus, they may need help developing their language by learning tacts. In order to increase verbal language, we often teach tacts within our patient’s programs. You may see a Behavior Technician work on tacts by asking the learner “What do you see?” ,”What is this?”, “This is a__”, etc. These are common questions to encourage a learner to label an object.

You may be asking yourself the following questions! 

What is the difference between a mand and a tact?

A mand is when the learner is requesting an object by saying its name, stating “I want__”, or other forms of language that often result in the learner obtaining that object. A tact is simply labeling or “naming” something that they see, hear, smell, taste, or feel.

Why is learning to tact important?

Tacting allows individuals to interact with their world by expanding their vocabulary and understanding that every object, person, place, sounds, etc. have a name. By understanding and identifying that name, the learner is able to communicate more than simple requests for wants and needs. Instead, they are able to identify the world around them!

My child can already talk, why do they need to work on tacts?

If your child is already emitting vocal language, that is great! However, by teaching additional tacts, your child may be able to expand their speech into much more complex sentences, phrases, and even build conversational skills.

Why don’t I see tacts in the current program?

The most important thing with your ABA program is to have open communication. If you feel as if tacts are needing to be addressed in your child’s program, discuss with your BCBA why these aren’t occurring. It may be that there are additional skills that need to be addressed currently, or that the skill is already there so they are naturally building tacts during natural environment teaching!

Be sure to check out our other posts regarding Verbal Operants to learn more about how we work to increase verbal behavior! You can find these in the “Let’s Learn ABA” section of Family Tools!

Here is a handout that you may use as a quick reference guide!

Verbal Operants

Written By:

Heidi Mann, BCBA, Outreach Consultant