Mand-Giving-WaterWhat is a Mand?

A mand (request) is one of B.F. Skinner’s verbal operants that typically results in the speaker obtaining the item that was spoken. A mand falls under the expressive language category and is simply known as a request. Manding (requesting) is an area that is typically a priority in ABA programming, especially in early intensive ABA programs when working with children with autism and other developmental delays.

Manding is also used to begin an ABA program with a child who has limited verbal behavior, because if a child mands for his or her wants and/or needs and is able to get those wants and/or needs met with ease then inappropriate behaviors are less likely to emerge. Many times, if a child is unable to verbalize (either vocally, through pictures, through sign language, or through gestures) his or her wants and needs, the child and the parents are more likely to get frustrated. With frustration, the tendency of inappropriate behaviors occurring to obtain what is wanted is more likely as well.

Another reason manding is typically used to begin an ABA program is the fulfillment of a mand is reinforcing in itself. For example, a child wants a cookie and says, “cookie,” while pointing to a cookie. The natural response to this request is to give the child the cookie. By doing so, the mand was reinforced and the likelihood that the child will continue and/or increase his or her manding behavior is increased.

Manding can occur in many forms. Mands can occur as vocal language, through use of pictures, through use of gestures, through use of sign language, and through use of vocal approximations.

Tips for increasing manding behavior for kids with autism and other developmental delays:

  • Keep highly desired items out of reach. This allows the opportunity for the child to mand for the item
  • Limit access to highly reinforcing items. The child will most likely have more motivation to obtain the item. This motivation will allow for more manding opportunities
  • Teach your child how to mand . Use prompts and say (or do) what you want to occur. The more opportunities your child is shown what to do, the more likely they will engage in the same behavior.