Communication Training

One of my favorite topics to talk about is communication. Communication seems so simple right? It sure is complex and takes many forms! Communication training is a procedure that focuses on teaching and strengthening communication responses that are recognizable to communication partners. Communication partners can be the waitress that is taking your food request, your mother answering your question, “What is for dinner mommy?” or your friend passing you the water after you have handed her a picture of water.

Communication is an essential skill as it allows an individual to access their environment and communicate their wants and needs. The most important thing to consider is that teaching a child to request using any form teaches her that communication is powerful. What are the forms of communication you ask? The forms of communication can be production based such as, vocal or sign language or selection based such as, Picture Exchange Communication System and Prolquo2go. Who determines the form of communication? The clinical team! Prior to our team completing communicating training they first consider a few significant variables; the Learner’s current skill level, what type of prompting is the most effective, and social recognition for the communicative response (i.e., Will the audience understand what she is requesting?). As I mentioned earlier, communication training involves a group of individuals. Our team of BCBAs will interview our families to determine items that their child prefers. We will then complete stimulus preference assessments with the child, and the most exciting part, we capture that motivation! Mand training usually begins in a contrived environment followed by natural opportunities. It is crucial that once the Learner is motivated for the item, the therapist prompts the request and immediately reinforces the request with the high valued item. Initial communication training begins with therapist but as I mentioned earlier, it is crucial that we train natural behaviour change agents such as caregivers, as well as move intervention into natural contexts such as home or the playground.

Tips for teaching manding

  1. Teach in the natural environment where the motivation is strong.
  2. Make sure the Learner is motivated for the item. Never prompt a Learner to mand for an item they don’t want! In this case, the Learner is performing an echoic, not a mand.
  3. Capture and contrive throughout the day. Set goals for number of mands, and target different items, therapists, and settings.
  4. Initially, prompt mands to teach the Learner that it is easy to get things by asking for them.
  5. Be a “giver” and not a “taker”.
  6. Give freebies! To help build interest for the target items, give a bit for free before requiring the Learner to ask for it.
  7. Consistently introduce new material. If the Learner has been manding for the same item 5-8 times in a row, introduce a new item and give freebies; if the Learner does not show MO for the new item, return to the original item for another 5-8 trials then try again with a different item.


Portia Curriculum – Communication Module



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