Teaching Children with Autism, continued
Requesting/Demanding (Mands) and Labelling (Tacts)
Typically, language proceeds from imitation through requesting to labelling and intraverbals. A typical preschool child will make 500-1000 requests per day. Requesting (manding) is usually taught before labelling because the reinforcer is built-in – the child is motivated to ask for things and reinforced by getting them. Requestinging is usually taught in the child’s natural environment. When teaching requesting, think “motivating operations.” How are you going to arrange things so that your child is motivated to mand?
At first, teach words that either request (mand) or label (tact) reinforcers, e.g., particular foods or drinks, a particular toy, etc. And never teach only one mand at a time. Have several in acquisition at any given time. If teaching signing and the child has poor motor imitation, initially teach no more than 5-8 signs; if the child has moderate motor imitation, begin teaching up to 20 signs.
Always say (or, if you are teaching signing, sign and say) the name of the item three times as you deliver it, unless the child says (or signs) the word before you finish, in which case, deliver the item, the reinforcer, immediately.
In the beginning, don’t try to teach words that look alike or sound alike. For example, the sign for eat and drink look very similar, the words eat and meat sound alike – you want to make it as easy as you can for your child to learn to communicate. Also, avoid teaching “general” words like “more,” which can cause you immense problems when the child starts to use them indiscriminately.