Whenever I mention verbal behavior, people invariably ask me how it "relates to ABA," whether it's "better" than "Lovaas" or "traditional" ABA, or similar questions. By way of background, I'll mention that I originally started in "Lovaas," or rather purely DTT programs, then moved into ABA/VB. I will also make the point that a major caveat with any approach is that there's always the difference between how a method is implemented closest to the source (i.e., by the person who "created" it, in the schools, or from the university) and how students of that method implement it in home programs, in other schools, etc. But, that said, having gone through a range of "models," I've come to the same conclusion that I started with, which is that the best bet is to learn all you can in terms of the science and the instructional strategies and then use whatever combinations work for each child. ABA, in whatever guise, is based on behavioral principles and tactics, i.e., reinforcement, prompting, shaping, fading, and so on. Because behaviorism is a science, not a teaching method, it can serve as the foundation for a lot of different behavioral "models."

    I'm less concerned with specific labels; what people must learn and understand are the principles of behavior, which are critical to good teaching. Once you know the science and its foundations and the reasons behind the practice, it's important not to marry your teaching to one thing or another. That often leads to the infighting and refusal to integrate that I believe really hurts the kids, since it dictates that we're not supposed to use the best of all ideas. Good teaching doesn't require that one adheres rigidly to a set theory, method, or curriculum. It requires that the teaching be skilled and generalized, that the curriculum be designed to meet the child's specific, individual needs, and that it remain creative. I do believe that all programs must be internally consistent, that the staff should be well-trained, and that language should always be a focus. Beyond that, following one curriculum or another in a linear, inflexible fashion doesn't hold any appeal for me.

    Once the attending is there, I think the overall focus should be on teaching connections. Connections of concepts to each other, connections of different VB forms to each other, connection of what is taught to what happens in "real life." If a child learns that echoics, manding, tacting, receptive language, and intraverbals can be put together to conduct a conversation, s/he is more likely to learn and use what he learns. The generalization and integration of concepts makes the teaching functional. Skillful use of prompting, generalization, fading of prompts, etc., should be a big part of any program. These prompts and strategies (and hundreds and thousands more) can be used in any teaching form. The common thread is the interlocking antecedent-behavior-consequence relationships for both the teacher and the student. Beyond that, there's a lot more flexibility than some would lead us to believe.

    Too often I come into programs and see curricula that either seem to have been picked out of a hat, or that are being taught as disjointed chunks of information. Inevitably, the child has either stopped learning or hasn't integrated or connected any of what s/he's been taught. Part of it is that many people don't use the data to guide teaching and learning, but part of it is that the curriculum hasn't been designed to be cohesive. The programs need to be functional, the antecedents need to be varied, the consequences need to be consistent, and the reinforcers constantly tested for effectiveness and preference. What "model" they come from is almost irrelevant, so long as the behavior change you're seeking to effect is socially significant and functional for the child. In my case, I work from a hybrid of Skinner, Lovaas, Sundberg & Partington, Maurice, Green, & Luce, Leaf & McEachin, Freeman & Dake, the IGS curricula, plus others, and my own ideas. I've never come up with a conflict among them; in fact, I've only seen my kids benefit from it.

    Ultimately, I think that anyone who insists that you can't mix and match approaches within the science are more invested in planting a flag in their own piece of ABA Land than in teaching our kids. What needs to be solid and consistent is the teaching. What is taught is more flexible and varied because our kids are all different, have different needs and abilities, and learn in different ways. To me, it makes much more sense to fit the instruction and curriculum to the child, rather than trying to fit the child into the instruction and curriculum.



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