What is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)?

What is Pivotal Response Training (PRT)?

What is Verbal Behaviour?

What is Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)?


What is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)?


ABA is the only scientifically-validated treatment for children with autism that has produced significant improvements in language, social and academic skills and daily functioning, as well as in reductions of challenging behaviours. It is not one teaching method or strategy, but rather it is a collection of teaching strategies that are based on the principles of learning theory and that are used to bring about meaningful and positive changes in behaviour.

ABA involves breaking down complex skills into smaller steps and teaching each step in a hierarchical and structured manner. All behaviour has antecedents that trigger it and consequences that affect the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again in the future. Learning principles such as reinforcement, shaping, and generalization are used to increase and maintain adaptive behaviours, teach new skills, and reduce maladaptive behaviours. ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective.

The effectiveness of ABA-based interventions with children with autism is well documented in validated and peer-reviewed research. Children with autism who receive early intensive ABA-based intervention have been shown to make gains in language, academic performance, measures of social behaviour, and adaptive behaviour. These gains have been reported to be substantial and to have been sustained over time.

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) and Verbal Behaviour are two treatment approaches that are based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis. Little Talks uses both of these approaches in their high-quality ABA programming.


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What is Pivotal Response Training (PRT)?


PRT is a play-based and child-initiated therapy that is based on the principles of ABA. It was created in the 1970s by Robert Koegel, Ph.D., and Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D. PRT tutors focus on "pivotal" areas of development, including motivation, responsivity to multiple cues, self-management, and initiations of social interactions. The philosophy is that by targeting these critical areas, PRT will produce broad improvements across other areas of sociability, communication, behaviour and academic skill building.


What is Verbal Behaviour?


Verbal Behaviour teaches languages and communication skills using B.F. Skinner's theory on Verbal Behaviour as well as the principles of ABA. The focus of this type of therapy is to teach children that words can help them get the things they want and need as well as help them communicate ideas. In short, it teaches them why we use words.

In his book, Verbal Behavior, Skinner classified language into various types. The following four are particularly relevant in our ABA programs:


Echoic: A repeated, or echoed word. For example, a child says, "Cookie" after someone else has just said it.

Mand: A mand is a request. For example, a child says the word, "Cookie" in order to get access to a cookie.

Tact: A tact is a comment or label to share an experience or draw attention. For example, a child may point at a car and say, "Car."

Intraverbal: A word or phrase said in response to someone else's verbal behaviour. For example, answering "I'm four" when asked, "How old are you?"







At Little Talks we would begin by teaching a child to mand (i.e., to request objects and activities) because this is the most motivating type of language for children to learn - it gets their wants and needs met! Often teaching mands goes hand in hand with teaching echoics, since children usually have to learn to imitate a word before they can spontaneously produce it to make a request. 







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What is Positive Behaviour Support?


Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is exactly what it sounds like - a positive and supportive approach to behaviour change. Parents often assume that difficult eating and sleeping behaviours are part of their child’s diagnosis of autism and must be endured. However, many families find PBS very helpful in learning how to help their children develop functional behaviours that can make a huge difference in the quality of family life and the child’s ability to be included in school and community activities. Core features of PBS include the application of behavioural science (ABA), the use of practical interventions to prevent problematic/challenging behaviour and promote desired behaviour, and a focus on improving the quality of life for the child and his or her family members.