Learn How to Teach Manding to your Child

Updated: Sep 23, 2019


Child learning how to make a mand

A few articles ago, we talked about what manding is and why it is so important. (click on the link to read back on the article again)


Now, let’s get to know the how. How do we teach manding to your child?


Manding requires 3 things:

  • An instructor-controlled reinforcer (a reinforcer only accessible by/through the instructor).

  • Child’s desire for the reinforcer.

  • Child’s awareness of the reinforcer.


Importantly, the item(a reinforcer) we are practicing with must be an item the child wants. It is no use to teach the child to ask for an “apple” when they are not interested in it. The mand will have no functional value, and the child will fail to learn, crucially, the skill of asking for what they want. If you are unsure about what the child wants, you can try putting out a few snacks and observing which one they go for. In the beginning, stick to consumable items such as snacks. This will allow many opportunities for practicing (break bigger snacks into small pieces, or use bite-size snacks), and positively associate the instructor as someone who gives the child yummy things they want. Items like toys can also be manded for, but as they can be played with for a long time, they do not yield as many practice opportunities as a consumable would.


The child’s level of awareness of the reinforcer is also a factor. In the beginning, children may not know how to ask for things they do not see. So, at the beginning of teaching manding, try to use items that are around them that are tangible, rather than something hidden away in the fridge. As you progress, the things they can ask for should become more varied and may be out of sight. Eventually, higher-level manding involves the child requesting for information, such as, “Where is mummy?” or “When are we going to the supermarket?”

An instructor-controlled reinforcer is essential in getting the child to learn how to mand. If the child gets free access to biscuits which are always placed on the table, they will naturally take them without asking for them. If, however, the access to biscuits is through the instructor (therefore, an instructor-controlled reinforcer), they can be taught to request for the biscuits. An instructor-controlled reinforcer, other than associating the instructor with goodness and fun and giver of yummy things, may also help the child understand certain boundaries, such as, needing to ask for permission to toilet during lesson time instead of running off on his own.


The initial process of teaching manding is in 3 steps:

Instructor: “What do you want?”

Child: “Cookie.”

Instructor: Gives cookie to child.


When you are first teaching the child to mand, the first step of asking, “What do you want?” is necessary because the child does not yet understand how to request. In a way, the question serves as a prompt for the child to make a request. As the child gets better at manding, they may spontaneously ask for something without the instructor saying anything. When that happens, they should be quickly rewarded with the item! After all, the end goal is for our children to be able to independently ask for things that they want.


If the child is already able to label items, get them to echo the label before giving it to them.


Instructor: “What do you want?” (Holds up the Cookie) “Cookie.”

Child: Echoes “Cookie”.

Instructor: Gives child the Cookie. “Cookie!”


If the child is unable to use spoken language yet, you can prompt them to sign for it. This can be a special sign for apple you’ve created or a generic sign of “give” (eg. placing the child’s hand palm out).


Instructor: “What do you want?” (Holds up the Cookie) “Cookie.”

Child: (Instructor helps child sign for apple and says “Cookie”).

Instructor: Gives child the cookie. “Cookie!”


Even when the child is not yet able to speak, make sure you continuously expose them to the words as we are always trying to move the child towards using spoken language.


Gradually, as the child makes successful mands aided by prompts from the instructors, we want to fade the prompt.


Instructor: “What do you want?” (Holds up the Cookie) “Coo-”

Child: “Cookie”.

Instructor: Gives child the cookie. “Cookie!”

So, instead of prompting the whole word, “Cookie”, we fade it out to only “Coo..“, and eventually to just holding up the cookie as a visual cue.


Remember, the skill of manding is important for reducing problem behaviours! While an ABA therapist may only have 2-3 sessions per week with the child, a parent/caretaker will spend a lot more time with them. It is therefore crucial for parents and caretakers to practice manding with the child whenever they can. This can help the child understand and learn more quickly. However, do note that if your child is starting to ask for chocolate every other minute, you can, like any other parent, say no to them 😊. This will help the child learn that there are certain boundaries, and that they may not be getting their way all the time.


Cheers! I hope this has been helpful to you parents!


Feel free to reach out to us if you require any further clarification on what we have written in regards to this topic.


#manding #autismtherapy #abavb #avb #autismcentre #teach

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