The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders by Mary Lynch Barbera, PhD, RN, BCBA with Tracy Rasmussen and foreword by Dr. Mark Sundberg enables parents and professionals unfamiliar with the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and B.F. Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior to get started immediately using the verbal behavior approach to teach children with autism and related disorders.

In this book, Dr. Mary Barbera draws on her own experiences as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and also as a parent of a son with autism to explain ABA and VB and how to apply it for children on the autism spectrum.


Step-by-step guide for parents and professionals

Explains how to help children with autism develop better language and learning skills while reducing problem behaviors

One chapter focuses on how to teach children who do not yet speak to use sign language as a bridge to vocal language and also explains how to get more words from children who do speak

An entire chapter focuses on ways to reduce problem behavior

This easy-to-read book also contains information on teaching toileting and other important self-help skills

Dr. Barbera puts on her “BCBA hat” and “parent hat” throughout the book and also discusses important topics such as denial, coping, and advocacy

Parent Praise

“An amazing book that combines detailed instructions for parents on how to get started using ABA/VB with a little bit of emotional support to let them know that they are not alone.”

Trish Cuce, Mother of Lindsay, a daughter with Autism, Teacher & Consultant for children with Autism, Founder of POAC of PA

“Written with style, warmth and real know-how, Mary Barbera has managed to combine valuable therapeutic advice with her own eloquent story.”

Eustacia Cutler, Author, A Thorn in My Pocket: Temple Grandin’s Mother Tells the Family Story

“This book is a must have for the parents and caregivers of children diagnosed with Autism and related disorders. Mary takes the guess work out of which approach is the most beneficial by providing empirically based research in the form of an easy “How-To” guide.”

Tammy Maher, M.Ed., BCBA, Mother of a child with Autism

“I just want to express how much I loved your book ‘The Verbal Behavior Approach’!!! My son is 4 and has just been diagnosed – your book has saved my life!!!”

Laura Ferguson, Lakewood, CO

“Mary’s book is written in an organized, easy-to-understand format that will provide parents with a specific plan to begin meaningful language instruction with their child with autism. Readers will benefit from the clear and concise descriptions of behavioral procedures. Parents will feel empowered as they learn how to create significant, positive changes in their children’s lives.”

Amy Macfarlane, MBA, BCBA, Director/Consultant, Novel Responses, Inc. and mother of a son diagnosed with autism at age 3

What a wonderful book! I typically get glazed over with the intensity of ABA/VB. This was an easy read that provided clear cut, practical information that families and professionals can effectively use.

Traci L. Plunkett, parent of a son with PDD-NOS

“Wow what an excellent book! I wish it would have been available when my daughter, Sarah, was first diagnosed. Mary has done a great service to children with autism and their families by writing this wonderful resource.”

Liz Maher, Mother of a daughter with autism

“I just had to take a moment to tell you this book takes a lot of information and makes it feel like I can do this!!! My four-year-old son is autistic, and he is in a vb program at school 20 hours a week. My daughter is 2, and may be autistic (not sure, yet) and I want to start her on vb because it sure can’t hurt, and might help immensely. You have made a difference in both of these children’s lives (and many more, I’m sure) by writing such a practical, easy to implement book. Thank you!”

Christine Wolk

Professional Praise

“… Barbera is not only accurate, but easy to understand. And her personal experience in this area makes her explanations and instructions entertaining and easy to apply. It is a very good book in all respects.”

Dr. Jack Michael

“I am impressed with both the content and the clarity of your writing. I taught a class on verbal behavior once a year for 25 years. How I wish I could have had your book during that time….Your dedication to Lucas and Spencer brought tears to my eyes.”

John O. Cooper, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of Education, The Ohio State University

One of the most valuable books for parents of children with autism since Let me hear your voice by Catherine Maurice.

Mark Sundberg, PhD, BCBA, Author of the VB-MAPP

“As a dedicated and caring parent, Mary has demonstrated her commitment to all children with autism by writing such a thoughtful and useful book.”

Rick Kubina, Ph.D., BCBA,

“This is an easy to follow, engaging book which is a wonderful starting point for parents and professionals to work together in changing behavior and increasing language in children with delays. Ms. Barbera’s thoughtful insights and experiences empower parents, teachers, and therapists by giving them the knowledge base and confidence to begin to work with their children using an ABA/VB approach.”

Dore Blanchet MS., OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

“A truly remarkable book that is clearly written, well organized, and a thorough compilation of important information and advice. This book provides a friendly voice that will assist parents, educators, and other professionals in utilizing these techniques with children with autism. It is a must have for anyone who knows, lives with, or teaches a child with autism spectrum disorder.”

Kimberly Barnes M.S. CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist

“This book provides parents with down-to-earth information. A welcome addition to the literature for parents of young children with autistic spectrum disorder, or other developmental disabilities requiring intensive behavioral intervention.”

James Coplan, MD, Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician

“Mary’s book nicely presents what Verbal Behavior is, why we teach it the way we do and how to get started with your child’s VB program. All of this is written in an easy to understand and entertaining manner. What a great resource especially for parents! With clear, concise explanations and examples, heartfelt stories and helpful resources listed throughout, Mary has provided the community with a nice description of teaching verbal behavior. Every parent of a newly diagnosed child should own a copy of this book.”

Holly Kibbe, MS, BCBA, Establishing Operations, Inc.

“This extraordinary book is at once both a human portrait of success in the face of struggle and a technical manual offering guidance to parents in an approach that Ms. Barbera found to be so very helpful – the Verbal Behavior Approach. But I believe that the book offers more than this. It is a practical approach and a testament to a person who needed to struggle to grasp very abstract concepts and integrate complex theoretical arguments from a field to help her child. How that gets mixed together is the core of this book.”

Joseph Cautilli, Ph.D, LPC, BCBA

“This book accomplishes many things that few such works do–it pairs sound research with concrete examples; is accessible to the expert and novice alike, and touches the heart without sacrificing professionalism.”

Anne A. Skleder, Ph.D., Provost, Cabrini College

Professional Book Reviews

“This is an informative and important addition to the books that exist for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. While the interest in Verbal Behavior programming for learners with autism has mushroomed over the past few years, there is a paucity of books outlining how to implement the approach, and this book addresses that need. Furthermore, it is a very easy-to-read and parent-friendly book. Families will find the specific “how-to” approach to be extremely useful.”

Weiss, M.J. (2007). Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention

“Until now, there has been no “easy to read” manual available to teach the principles of the Verbal Behavior Approach and methods to utilize when working with students with autism or related disorders. The Verbal Behavior Approach serves as a practical and thorough guide on the principles of using the Verbal Behavior Approach for children with autism. Difficult terms are translated into easy-to-understand layman’s terms, which would be very useful for first-time learners and practicing clinicians unfamiliar with the Verbal Behavior Approach.”

Barnes, K. (2007). International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

“A succinct, intelligible tour of an effective intervention for autistic children through both speech and non-verbal communication. Autistic children frequently experience language delays and disorders. Behavioral analyst Barbera, whose first son has autism, explores the Verbal Behavior (VB) approach, in conjunction with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), to aid his communication skills, as well as providing abundant other examples of its successful application. VB is a refinement of B.F. Skinner’s pioneering work on language and operates under the conviction that expressive language is behavioral, rather than purely cognitive. Barbera takes Skinner’s arcane language and renders it not only clear but convincing.”

Kirkus Reports

“Focusing mostly on the pragmatic issues parents and professionals will face when initiating an Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB) program for a child with autism, The Verbal Behavior Approach gives novices a logical, useful, and reader-friendly book that will assist them in a search for practical advice on AVB. The Verbal Behavior Approach provides useful information and resources for immediate application, accomplishing the book’s main objective, providing for rapid implementation of an AVB program.”

Wilde, N.C., Evans, V.A., & Axelrod, S. (2007). The Behavior Analyst Today