Generalizing Mands Across Conditions, People, and Exemplars

In our discussion of when to do mand training we presented the idea that mands will need to be taught throughout the day and in situations where the motivation to obtain a reinforcer through social contact is natural. There will be times when mands are acquired in quite specific circumstances. For example, a student may learn to ask for a piece of candy only during a formal mand session. The student may not readily learn to ask for candy at other times when the opportunity to do so is available such as when a relative presents some candy at a family gathering. Again, a student may be able to ask for a ball at recess when the skill was taught, but may fail to ask for a ball when it is available on the playground after school. The student may learn to ask for one particular ball, but then may fail to request a ball that varies by its size or shape.

To assist the student in developing mands across people, settings, and exemplars, staff can systematically vary these factors during the mand training process or, if such variability is not immediately possible, transfer learning to other conditions once the mand is acquired.

Suggestions for Mand Generalization

  • Teach the child to ask for a variety of types of the same reinforcer, for instance, establish various types of balls as reinforcers and have the child ask for each at different times.
  • Provide lots of experience asking for the same reinforcer in a wide variety of locales: have the student ask for a ball in the gym, on the playground, in the classroom at recess, or on a trip to the park.
  • Set up situations wherein multiple people are able to provide the reinforcer, so that sometimes the student can ask one person for the preferred item and the next time another person.