Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and       Related Disorders [Mary Lynch Barbera]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Using the Verbal Behavior Approach to Teach Adolescents and Adults with Autism, Down Syndrome and other Developmental Disabilities

I consulted this week with a client I will call Dan. Unlike most of my other clients who are children with autism, Dan is in his twenties. He attends an adult day training program each day and volunteers with a job coach at various locations such as the hospital laundry.

Over the past three or four yeas since I’ve consulted on Dan’s case, I have learned a lot from him and his parents. I learned about adult services waiting lists, adult day training programs, and job coaches. I also feel that working with Dan has helped me improve my ability to teach others self care and vocational skills.. The most important thing that I continue to learn from Dan during each consultation is the importance teaching children functional skills. After this consultation, for example, I decided to hold an extra reading program we were using at home with my son, Lucas (who is now 13) because it was starting to cause him frustration and was not completely functional. Dan’s last consultation also made me decide to start teaching Lucas to identify numbers past 100 since Dan was sorting music into hymnals and needed to find the spot in between number 345 and 347 to place song number 346.

I believe that all of my previous blogs are applicable to adolescents and adults with autism (as well as other disabilities such as Down Syndrome). One of my blogs about the top three skills all individuals with autism need is particularly relevant:

Since working with several teenagers and a few adults with autism using the verbal behavior approach, I would recommend the following,  especially if the teens and adults you are working with are not conversational:

1) Read my book (The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders) and take advantage of many free resources on my web site: Also read Self Help Skills for People with Autism:

2) Purchase the VB-MAPP ( and complete the assessment (parents will most likely need assistance from a teacher or behavior specialist to complete this assessment). With the assessment complete, you can use this information to prioritize language goals based on your son’s or daughter’s (or client’s) strengths and needs. Self help and vocational goals are very important too and should be a major focus for older children, teens, and adults.

3) Parents may need to locate an advocate to help you navigate the system and to ensure that the transition to adult services is as smooth as possible. To find an advocate, contact your local autism society or mental health association.


  1. "... The importance teaching children functional skills.." Mary: Totally agree ... this is my end with my son ... !!!Excellent article. Hugs... Jazmín
    From Argentina

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