7 Reasons to Teach the Mand


Manding should be a significant component of a child with autism’s ABA program who is not yet talking or just starting to talk.  Check out these 7 reasons why teaching manding is so important.
1.  Children learn that talking is valuable.
The child learns…I talk, and my life gets better immediately.  In other words, when the child says “ball,” and the ball is delivered, the reinforcement is specific and timely.
2.  By teaching the mand, you may be replacing problem behavior with functional communication.
For example, if a child has a history of getting milk contingent on crying, he will continue to cry to get milk in the future. However, if a child learns that saying or signing milk is more effective and efficient at getting milk, it is likely that the crying will be replaced with manding.
3.  People doing manding sessions become paired with reinforcement.
During manding sessions, the child is constantly accessing reinforcement through adults, instructors, teachers etc.  This will pair those people with reinforcement and make the child want to approach them more frequently. Instead of learning: when the instructor comes to my house, all he does is ask me questions and make my life more difficult, the child will learn:  when the instructor comes to my house, my life gets more fun and I get to play with all of my favorite things.
4.  The child may start to like a wider variety of toys and activities.
Because manding sessions involve making the activities/games motivating for the child, the child may come to enjoy a wider repertoire of toys and activities.
5.  Mands are the foundation to conversation.
Manding is not just asking for items that you want.  As children develop more language, mands become more complex.  For example, as a child acquires a larger verbal repertoire, he or she will start manding for information (asking questions- in this case, the information is the reinforcer).  By teaching more basic manding we are building a foundation to learn more complex mands.  A conversation typically includes a series of mands for information and intraverbals.
What did you do last night? (Mand for information)
“I went to get pizza.” (Intraverbal)
Where did you get Pizza? (Mand for information)
“Dominos” (intraverbal)
6.  It is not guaranteed that the child  will develop a manding repertoire by teaching tacts (labels of items).
Just because a child can answer the question “what is it?” while the parent or instructor holds up an item, does not necessarily mean he can ask for it on his own (mand).  Because manding is conducted in the natural environment, the child can practice asking for items under the specific environmental conditions in which they are relevant.  Teaching tacts does not guarantee that a child will mand.
7.  It is essential to teach our children not only to be competent listeners (listener responding), but also to be competent speakers (manding).  
I heard Patrick McGreevyPH.D, BCBA-D say something similar to this in one of my classes during my BCBA training.  It resonated with me so much!  Teaching our children to be good speakers (manding) should be a primary goal of any ABA program for a child who is not talking or just starting to talk.  It would not be fair to focus on just making them good at following directions.  Teaching mands give children that cannot talk, a tiny bit more control over their life and should be made a priority from the start of their ABA program.