Mands for Negation

Mand Target: Student will mand for negation when the motivation for the removal of an item or the termination of an activity is present.

Pre-requisite mand skills: It is wise to begin teaching mands for negation when the student has a strong established repertoire for a variety of mands with item present as well as mands for actions, and is able to mand across instructors and settings. Exceptions can be made to teach mands for negation earlier if it becomes necessary to teach these mands as a functional replacement of problem behavior.

Pre-requisite skills from other strands: This skill will be more efficiently taught if the child is able to easily echo what is said (for vocal learners) or, in the case of students who use sign language, if they can readily imitate actions of others.

Motivative Operations:

Establishing Effect considerations and examples: Mands for negation are necessary when a reflexive motivative operation (CMO-R) is in effect. Remember that a CMO-R, as described earlier, serves to establish any event as a reinforcer that terminates a worsening condition and will evoke any behavior that has been so reinforced (Michael, 1993). In order to effectively teach mands for negation, instructors will need to make sure they are able to identify a variety of aversive stimuli that would establish their removal as reinforcement when they are presented to the student. In other words, the instructor needs to decide what stimuli will be used to present to the student to establish its removal as reinforcing. This will necessarily involve using things the student doesn’t like at the time. For example, if a student dislikes listening to people sing, then having someone sing near the student will establish the termination of singing as valuable, therefore creating an opportunity to teach the student to mand for the person to “stop singing”, “don’t sing”, or “quiet”.

Evocative effect considerations: Students who have weak mand repertoires or language delays, will sometimes develop other response topographies for manding for removal of aversive stimuli, which can include problem behavior. Keep in mind, that when a reflexive motivative operation is in place, it will evoke all behaviors that have been reinforced in the past by the removal of the aversive stimuli. Because of this we need to pay careful attention to the target response forms we select early in training. Initially, the response selected should require little effort but be effective in terminating the aversive stimuli. For example, in the above mentioned scenario, where a student dislikes to hear others sing; some may say it is not appropriate or polite to teach the student to say “stop singing” as opposed to “can you please lower your voice”. But if we take into consideration that this student is likely to begin screaming, hitting, or otherwise engaging in problem behavior we then can note the need to train a response that will be easy to produce or requires little effort. This will increase the likelihood of the target response and in turn, will decrease the likelihood of problem behavior occurring.

Target response definition: The target response forms will be the specific words or signs that result in termination of the aversive stimuli such as “stop”, “Don’t do that”, or “go away”. Again, keep in mind that we want to make the response requirement the least effortful as possible during the initial phases. Eventually, a student may be able to learn to mand with more complex response forms such as “can you stop shaking the table please?” We want to be careful to select targets that will allow the student to contact the reinforcer. In other words, we need to select targets for which we will be able to actually remove the aversive condition. So for example, it is appropriate to teach a student to emit the response “no” when he is offered an edible item or toy he dislikes. However, it is not appropriate to teach the student to emit the response “no” when the aversive stimuli is a demand the student must comply with such as sitting at the table in a chair to eat versus running around the room with a mouthful of food. In this later scenario, the instructor would not be able to remove the aversive stimuli of the demand to sit.

Response topographies targeted for extinction: As with other mand skills, instructors will need to make sure that error responses do not contact reinforcement. The instructor should not remove the aversive condition if the student emits problem behavior or other inappropriate responses. Of course, this must be done carefully so as to insure that no harm is done to the student in any way. Extinction may also be used when the student uses a specific trained topography such as “no” when in fact there is no motivation for the removal of aversive stimuli. In this situation, the instructor should pause and then prompt the correct mand form. Instructors will also need to be especially cautious with not reinforcing mands for the removal of aversive stimuli, when the aversive stimuli involve demands that the student must comply with. Instead teachers will need to pair compliance with dense schedules of reinforcement and teach compliance errorlessly. It is also worth mentioning that this may not be the replacement behavior we want to teach a student who frequently does not want to comply with instructional demands.

Teaching Procedures: The first step in teaching mands for negation is to identify a variety of aversive stimuli that will allow establishing their removal as reinforcement. We then have to select the response form or response forms to teach. There are situations in which a generalized mand for removal of aversive stimuli is adequate to teach. Such as the case of a student who presents with severe problem behavior when an aversive stimulus is present and who has limited skills and may not be able to quickly acquire a variety of responses. Of course, teachers should never present stimuli that will do harm to a student.

Once the aversive stimuli and response targets are selected, instructors will need to set up many opportunities to teach the student to mand for negation. This will be done by contriving situations in which the instructor presents, or has someone else present, the aversive stimuli. If the motivation for removal of the item is confirmed, the instructor will immediately provide the student with the least intrusive prompt necessary to evoke the target response.

Prompting and prompt fading: As is the case for teaching other types of mands, instructors want to use the least intrusive prompt that will result in the correct target response and systematically fade prompts by using transfer trials. Remember that transfer trials are trials that follow prompted trials where the instructor uses a faded prompt or no prompt in an effort to get a more independent response from the student.

Fading to MO control: The ultimate goal is to get the mand to occur solely under control of the motivative operation, in this case the CMO-R.

Data Collection: Instructors should collect probe data for target responses as well as frequency data for prompted vs. unprompted responses.

Graphing: Graphing of cumulative target mands as well as prompted vs. unprompted.

Data based decision making: Criteria for mastery will need to be set by instructors. In most cases it prudent to set criteria for mastery at 3 consecutive correct probes.