Preparing the Environment for Mand Training

In order to establish and maintain motivation, items that serve as reinforcement cannot be freely accessible to the student. As we mentioned before, instructors will need to have control over reinforcement availability. A central way of controlling access is through the careful ordering of the physical environment. Teachers can set up classrooms so that the things a student likes can only be reached through the intercession of an instructor. Some ways of doing this include putting items on higher shelves, placing preferred toys in clear bins that may be difficult for the student to open, and keeping edibles in clear multi-chambered boxes such as sewing boxes or tackle boxes. Some teachers will wear aprons in which they can store small reinforcers for immediate access. In many preschool classrooms that follow a developmental conceptual model, play materials are kept available for student exploration. This is a beneficial arrangement for typically developing children, but may work against children with a weak mand repertoire. The free access to the play materials may compete with establishing opportunities for making requests. The student will have no need to talk to anyone if there are so many things out that they can get without ever interacting. This is especially true for students with autism who by definition will show differences in their pattern of interaction. The recommendation then is to “sanitize” the environment in order to increase the motivation for social opportunities to make requests.