Can I Have it? Teaching a Child How to Make Requests

Guest Authored By Briana Comer, MA, RBT

In the world of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), manding is a tool that teaches a child primarily how make requests. These requests transition into conversational skills, which will travel with them for the remainder of their lives. Teaching a child to mand demonstrates how life can be rewarding by making appropriate requests for items or activities.

Manding can be considered a way to teach functional communication. As a baby, they use crying to communicate that they are hungry or need to be changed. Expectations change as children age. We would think it strange for a 12-year-old to cry when they are hungry. We would expect them to request food.

Manding skills also create other avenues for conversations. In ABA, clients are taught how to “fill in the blank” or respond to questions. By practicing mands, individuals are able to grow their vocabulary and learn to respond to questions that may be asked. Manding can also be used to build and strengthen rapport between a therapist and child. Just as a child has trust in their parent to feed them when they cry, a child has trust in their therapist to deliver what they are requesting.

When teaching a child to mand, you will want to begin with the most prompting. This will include modeling the mand (“I want a cookie”). Once the child has learned how to mand independently, a therapist or guardian can begin to decrease the number or level of prompts used to assist. The prompts may vary, ranging from gestures (pointing to the cookie) or partial (“I want _____”) vocal prompts.

At Blue Bird Day, each child is taught to mand through multiple disciplines and across a variety of environments. Whether they are taught by a member of the behavioral therapy team, speech team, or child development specialist, the child is shown socially appropriate ways to make requests, respond to questions, or have conversations. The child is able to practice a variety of phrases to gain access to preferences; meanwhile, showcasing their independence in language.