Multiple Component Mand Protocol

Mand Target: Student will use multiple component mands to request specific items within a single type of reinforcer. For instance the student will learn to ask for the “big, green block” rather than just asking for a “block.” Multiple component mands can also involve adverb phrases (“push fast” or “push slow”), quantity adjective phrases (“two blocks”, “a little water”, etc.) Multiple component mands can also take the form of action-agent mands such as “throw ball” versus “throw boomerang” or “push truck” versus “pull train.” Keep in mind that this protocol is addressing “multiple component mands” (mands that require a response involving more than one word), and the practitioner should not confuse this protocol with the issue of “multiply controlled mands” which have more to do with prompting procedures and the role of discriminative stimuli in evoking mands. The terms are similar and therefore may be easily confused.

Pre-requisite mand skills: The student will need to have developed the ability to emit efficient mands when motivation is strong for general examples of the type of reinforcer. The student will generally need to know how to ask for “block” before they are taught to ask for the “square block” or the “red block.” The student will also likely need to have a variety of mands acquired under the control of the item present.

Pre-requisite skills from other strands: Students may need to have developed the ability to tact features of various mand items including the adjectives or adverbs to be discriminated in the mand. In multiple component mands for actions, the student may need to have learned the pertinent adverb forms by being able to tact aspects of various actions (“It is moving fast”, etc.). Keep in mind that these prerequisites may not always be a necessary because the adjective and adverb concepts may be able to be directly taught more efficiently in the mand frame when motivation for the specific item or action is contingent upon appropriate discrimination of the concept. One may learn to ask for a fast push on the swing when they are on the swing than if they are asked to learn whether another student is swinging fast. In general, however, it is likely that acquisition of multiple component manding will be speeded if the student has previously learned the relevant adjective and adverbial concepts.

Motivative Operations:

Establishing Effect considerations and examples: how to motivate the student (this will involve a list of ways of setting up the teaching condition) The teacher will need to contrive or capture motivation not only for the general class of item or action, but also for the specific characteristics that define the motivative conditions. In other words the teacher needs to be sure that the student wants the specific type of item or wants the actions done in a very specific fashion. In relation to this protocol, establishing motivation for the specific characteristics of each item or action is the central task for teachers. Teachers need to be certain that they have found ways of making the “red ball” more valuable than the “green ball” (perhaps the red ball can be conditioned as the ball that arbitrarily is associated with certain fun games.) For some reinforcers, such discriminations may be clearly evident for students before this protocol is initiated. The student may consistently want the “Thomas” train and may have no interest in other available toy trains (such as the “wooden train”). Therefore teaching the mand for the “Thomas” train may be a straightforward option in relation to motivation in the circumstance where multiple toy trains are available. Granted eventually the same student may be taught to emit further multiple component mands for specific “Thomas” trains, such as the “hooting Thomas train”, the “Thomas train with the light”, and so forth.

Evocative effect considerations: what topographies will need to be shaped; which topographies will need to be extinguished: Teachers will need to determine in advance the acceptable concept that will discriminate the item or action. If the student will ask for a “red ball”, consideration will need to be given to avoiding the inadvertent teaching irrelevant attributes. For instance, if the red ball being taught as a mand is also a big ball and the student has already learned to mand for a big ball, the teacher will need to be sure that the items for which there is motivation vary by the target characteristic (in this case color) and no other characteristic. The point is, that when teaching “red ball” you have to be sure that “big ball” is not also a mand that successfully discriminates the same ball for which there is motivation. Eventually the student will need, of course, to learn to ask for specific items based on more than one attribute such as asking for the “big, red ball.”

Target response definition: For this set of skills, if the teacher is able to contrive motivation for specific attributes, then less consideration may be given to whether the particular adjectives or adverbs are in the student’s repertoire. However, for many multiple component mands, teachers may be well advised to select target responses that are already in the student’s repertoire as tacts or as listener responses. It will also be prudent to select mand discriminations that are more salient and less subtle (it is better to teach color, shape and/or size before one begins to teach discriminated mands for more abstract qualities such as material composition (i.e., wood or metal), flavors, or personal evaluations of the item (“the nice one”).

Response topographies targeted for extinction: As with most mand procedures, it is important that attention be given to issues of response specificity and response generalization. Teachers will need to be sure that the student mands for a “ball” in the condition when specificity is not of concern and that the necessary specification of item quality is emitted when such quality is appropriate. A student who asks for the “big green ball” at a time when they are motivated to obtain any type of ball would probably sound rather odd. Such responses should not be reinforced. Of course error responses should also be placed on extinction such as when the student asks for the “green ball” when their motivation is known to be for the “red ball.”

Teaching Procedures

Prompting and prompt fading: In order to effectively prompt a multiple component mand, the instructor will first need to be sure that the student is indeed motivated to obtain the specific item with its specific characteristics. The actual prompting procedures are not unique to this teaching protocol. In other words, use the prompt that is most effective in evoking the response but avoid using prompts that are more intrusive than necessary. Also remember to consider using prompts from operant forms that are already in the student’s repertoire: if the student can tact the defining quality, presenting a tact prompt will be appropriate. For most multiple component mands with a vocal response form, echoic prompts will be effective.

Fading to MO control: As with other mand forms, use of mand transfer trials should be used to fade prompts with multiple component mands.

Other Procedural considerations: To shape clear control of multiple component mands, it is probably best to teach the various adjectives and adverb phrases in relation to a “pivot mand.” In this procedure various discriminating features are thought alternating around a single mand type. For instance, the student is taught to mand for the “red ball’, the “blue ball”, the “big ball” and the “little ball.” The qualifying control pivots around a single mand type. In structuring a sequence of training specific skills for multiple component mands, it will eventually become necessary to shift the pivot to the descriptor, in other words introducing mands for the “red ball”, the “red car”, the “red cup” and so forth. Teach single pivot mands first and as the student acquires skills, begin teaching three or more component mands.

Data Collection: Like other mand programs, staff will need to maintain a skill tracking sheet which lists active teaching targets. Daily cold probe data should be taken on active targets. The probe sheet should include a daily measure of whether the student declared a motivation for the item. The standard mand data sheet for mand acquisition can be used for this purpose. Mastery level performance may be set at three consecutive cold probe unprompted multiple component mands for each target. Instructional staff should also maintain a list of multiple component mands that occur outside of training conditions.

Graphing: Graph multiple component mands acquired.

Data based decision making: Review data daily; adjust programming and procedures as indicated. Continue this program until the student begins to demonstrate the ability to combine novel (untrained) multiple component mands that occur regularly outside of training conditions.