TEACHING A CHILD TO ASK
FOR THINGS (MANDING)
There are many hurdles faced by children on the
autism spectrum, as they learn communication skills. An early stumbling
block can be learning to ask for things (manding). It is a major
key to establishing interactions with others, and for a child to
have a sense of control and power over their environment.
A first step would typically be saying the name of an object as
the child reaches for it ie. "doll". The doll would be
held by the parent or therapist for a moment to see if the child
will say "doll" as well. If not, the child be allowed
to have the desired object anyway. Another strategy would be to
pick up the doll, say "let's play with the doll" and see
if the child responds. A third strategy would be to put a favorite
toy just out of reach without your help. When the child attempts
to get the toy, you can offer the child a choice "do you want
the doll or the clock?", pointing out each and waiting for
This process should follow the guidelines of Applied
Behavior Analysis. We are breaking the skill of verbally requesting
things down into the smallest units for easy learning. At first,
the child reaching for an object is the first step. The next may
be saying "doll", possibly followed by "want doll"
and so forth.
Never require a response that you can’t prompt-
don't say “Say doll” while holding the doll if the child does not
consistently imitate. This is because we can’t physically “make”
the child say the word. We don't want the child to practice not
following instructions. Remember prompts can be verbal, visual or
physically guiding the child's hands to an object. The overall goal
is for a child to eventually not need prompts. This is why the least
intrusive prompts are used, so the child does not become overly
dependent on them when learning a new behavior or skill. Prompts
are gradually faded out as the new behavior is learned.
Children with autism
can still learn to make requests even if they cannot master words
technology such as communication boards can still be used for
a child to make requests using symbols, with verbal requests hopefully
following at a later point.
Positive reinforcement should be used to reward
appropriate responses from the child. This may simply be gaining
access to the requested toy, or a special treat if the child had
made a big step in their ability to ask for things.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets and personal stories
See the Communication
skills page for more information on communication issues.
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU