Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Christine Reeve

Committee Member

Kartina Pann

Committee Member

Kimberly Durham


applied behavior analysis, autism, discrete trial teaching, natural environment teaching, verbal behavior


There are many different interventions available to individuals with autism, and the benefits of each therapy may vary for each student. Two vastly different treatments are discrete trial teaching (DTT) and the verbal behavior approach (VBA). While both are based in the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), VBA relies more on naturalistic teaching opportunities to teach language in context than DTT, which is conducted in structured instructional sessions. The literature supporting DTT is extensive, with many randomized control trial studies to corroborate its effectiveness. Meanwhile, VBA lacks empirical support as a package; though many studies demonstrate the success of parts of the approach in teaching children with autism. The purpose of this study is to compare these two methodologies to help determine the effectiveness of VBA as a teaching package. A single subject alternating treatment design was used to determine differential effects on language acquisition, generalization, maintenance, and rates of behavior on two students with autism. Both participants acquired new language and manding targets using the Lovaas’ DTT and VBA interventions. Trials to criterion were higher using Lovaas’ DTT, but lower when considering sessions to criterion. Overall time of instruction was lower when using VBA. For one participant, generalization was similar across both methodologies, but for the other participant, generalization was higher for targets acquired using VBA. Maintenance was higher for both participants for VBA targets. Rates of problem behaviors were lower for both participants when using VBA. This study was the first to fully describe the procedures used in VBA as a package, and limitations and lines of future research are discussed.