Overview of Mand Training

Mand training is a critical skill that has often been overlooked when designing language intervention programs for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

This guidebook will help define what a mand is, how it is similar to terms such as asking, requesting, demanding, commanding and so on, and how it uniquely describes a relationship between the conditions in a child’s environment and the child’s tendency to initiate interactions with other people. The main purpose, however, is to help you develop the skills needed to teach students how to use mands to make their lives better on a daily basis.

Although there are certain aspects of mand training which are simple and straightforward, assisting students with autism and other developmental delays in the acquisition of a broadly functional mand repertoire is often a challenge. It requires instructors who are skilled in establishing student motivation, effective prompt and prompt fading, and the application of a dynamic teaching protocol.

What is a mand?

The mand is one type of verbal behavior.

B. F. Skinner wrote the book, Verbal Behavior in 1957. The book describes the basic model we use to define the mand and other forms of functional communication from a behavioral perspective.

Skinner’s model of verbal behavior includes an analysis of the events that occur before and after one speaks and how those events alter the future frequency of what is often termed communication. He defines verbal behavior as behavior that is maintained through the specific actions of listener. The listener needs to have learned how to specifically respond to the speaker. Verbal behavior follows the same principles of other behavior, in other words our tendency to speak and the timing of when we speak are strongly related to the events that occur before and after we speak (antecedents and consequences.)

What follows next is a review of the basic principles of behavior that are important both for non-verbal and verbal behavior.