Teaching Intraverbals to Children with Autism

I recently received a question from someone in my online community about why I recommend Dr. Mark Sundberg’s intraverbal subtests. Intraverbals are a big part of teaching conversational skills, so this video is all about assessing and teaching this important communication skill.

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Why am I recommending the intraverbal subtest when I am not recommending tit for tat programming? Just to refresh anybody’s mind, the intraverbal subtest is eight groups. It is a supplement to the VB-MAPP. It is in the intermediate course under assessment. I recommend doing my assessment, the intermediate intraverbal assessment, and the self-care checklist. I do want to tell you that even though we’re not sitting down at the table for anything for Lucas for multiple years, we are not doing mixed VB, we do not sit down and drill, but we still are programming for tacts and intraverbals. For example, when he comes home from his day program, I ask him what work he did that day. Some days they don’t have work and he does puzzles and other things like that. For a while, he was saying cylinders. Thankfully his one to one comes home with him for a few hours so I can look at her and say, did he do cylinders?

So then I knew he was making errors. He was over answering cylinders because that’s really the job name that he knew best. Knowing his history, I’m like, that’s a tacting problem. We need pictures of all the jobs and all the materials for the jobs because part of his goal there is to request materials. So if he’s doing stickers on cylinders and he runs out of stickers, he needs to know the whole name of the job is called cylinders. But he also needs to know the parts of the job are cylinders and stickers so that when he’s running out of stickers he can say, “Ashley, I need stickers.” Then when he comes home and I say, “what did you work on today?” or “where did you go with Ashley?”, those questions require an intraverbal response. We are still teaching him tacts and we are still teaching him intraverbals.

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For one of my past clients, Alex, who’s in the “I want to go to Outback Steakhouse” video, I worked with him from sixth grade until he was 21. He used to work at the bakery at Weis. He had to put little muffins in a container with 4 across and 6 down. So we would teach him intraverbals, without the muffins and not at the bakery. We’d say okay, for little muffins, how many across and how many down? He’d respond “4 across, 6 down.” What about the big muffins? He’d respond “3 across, 4 down.” There’s always intraverbals as part of communication.

Lucas actually likes to do intraverbal webbing. I mean we don’t sit down and click but the other day my husband said: “Lucas, what color is your shirt?” Lucas responded “purple.”  Then he asked, “who else is purple?” Lucas responded “Barney” and he got a big smile on his face. So we are doing little webs throughout the day. When we’re on a walk, we’ll say “what’s in the sky?” and that sort of thing. So it is much different programming from the time the child is 1 to 5 or 6 or 8. We want to turn up the burners. We want to get the child as high-functioning as possible.

One of my past clients is going to college next week. We want to get them wherever the highest functioning, highest independence level is. For kids at this moderate to severe level, who’re older children, teens, and adults, it’s not that I want you to give up hope, but I do want you to think about what we should do now to give that child the best life, to give his family the best life, and to not be completely stressed every step of the way.

Kind of shift your hope and shift your focus to be: my goal is for the child to be as independent as possible, as safe as possible, and as happy as possible. That doesn’t revolve around if they know 3 tacts and 2 features and 2 functions. He’s at a job. His goal is to request more supplies. Yes, we can teach him the names, but he needs pictures. He needs a little drilling to learn the names of new jobs, to learn the names of new people, or to learn the names of new parts.

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