By: Stephanie Dille-Huggins, Director of Clinical Education
Cornerstone Autism Center, with a reputation of experience and excellence, consistently strives to provide best-in-class therapy guided by applied behavior analytic applications and principles for each client served. During the month of March, Cornerstone launched its ‘March Mand-ness’ campaign geared towards further increasing the communication abilities of its clients despite their current language level and mode of communication. Each of the five centers rallied around supporting each client’s individual manding goals and embraced this month to learn new therapy approaches to increase their clients’ language abilities. Each center was painted with statistics about language development and memes about manding to increase excitement and empower staff throughout the month!
“A mand is an operant that is evoked by motivation and followed by specific reinforcement” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007); however, simply put, a mand is a request or demand that an individual emits to gain access to a want/need. Emitting requests can be made through vocals, sign language, picture cards, speech-generating devices, and even simply pulling other individuals to specific areas or pointing. Manding is a fundamental and critical cornerstone of communication. The ability to communicate consistently and accurately their wants and needs allows our clients to grow in their independence, further broaden their abilities, and connect with others.
Our board-certified behavior analysts® (BCBAs®) and team leads worked diligently throughout the month to customize our client’s manding goals from the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) and/or Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) to aid in increasing manding abilities and revisited previously mastered goals to not only celebrate how far our clients have come but to also help in maintaining previously acquired skills. Despite using vocals, American Sign Language (ASL), or alternative and augmentative communication (i.e., picture exchange or speech-generated device), clients’ programming goals were further customized to match their preferred mode of communication. In addition, current manding abilities for clients were assessed, and new daily manding goals were set to further aid in building their manding repertoires.
Families were also included in the March Mand-ness initiative! Families were sent resources throughout the month to help increase manding implementation in the home and community settings. Designed by Cornerstone’s Director of Clinical Education, Stephanie Dille-Huggins, families received interactive resources, such as a two-part video of tips and tricks for implementing mand training at home and in the community and a visual handout that guided families through approaches to expanding language with their child. Lastly, additional resources that are available online were provided to families, which included the following:
Cornerstone’s Registered Behavior Technicians® (RBTs®) were provided a two-part training series designed by two of our BCBAs/training coordinators, Kathryn Kintner and Arielle Lofgren, that offered further training and development in the areas of shaping and time delay implementation to increase manding abilities, as well as procedures for capturing vs. contriving manding opportunities with clients during their therapy sessions. After the first training, therapists were asked to submit feedback on areas in which they wanted more training. To kick off March Mand-ness, therapists received part two of the training in which their questions were answered through being provided approaches on how to contrive manding opportunities between clients, teach how to request missing items, increase their client’s ability to request information using ‘WH’ questions, and increasing attending during picture exchange trials among clients utilizing this mode of communication. Throughout the month, RBTs were also provided with manding-themed stickers designed by Cornerstone’s Director of Quality Assurance, Angie Robbins, to further celebrate weekly goals and milestones achieved!
Cornerstone’s clinical team was also empowered to explore new approaches to addressing manding growth throughout the month of March! Resources were provided to the clinical team, including a chart with recommendations/considerations regarding how to approach VB-MAPP manding milestones. Strategies presented to the team included approaches to data collection to support collecting information on mands occurring naturally during therapy and pre-teaching strategies that could be implemented with clients for programs such as VB-MAPP mand 11m, which requires the client to spontaneously request different verbal information using a ‘WH’ question or other question words five times. In addition, the clinical team was guided on creating parent training goals centered around manding/functional communication training that can be worked on during the treatment period to help increase families’ skills and abilities in this area. In addition to these resources, our Director of Quality Assurance led weekly clinical chats with the team centered around manding topics that further fostered collaboration among the clinical team as new strategies were brainstormed to support our clients further. It also provided our clinicians a platform to celebrate client gains and achievements throughout the month!
Cornerstone employees enrolled in graduate school for applied behavior analysis (ABA) must gain clinical experience as they work towards completing their master’s degree to sit for either their BCaBA® or BCBA exam. These individuals were invited to learn and expand their clinical knowledge in manding by offering monthly supervision activities. Several of these opportunities include:
– Research existing and current interventions to support building manding/functional communication repertoires among clients.
– Studying varying modes of communication for clients to increase accessibility.
– Reviewing manding growth by tracking the progress of programming among clients.
– Analyzing daily manding averages across clients and reporting to the client’s team.
It was an exciting month here at Cornerstone, and wonderful to see the continued growth and development of communication skills among our clients!
Advanced Mand Training: How to Teach Requesting Information – Dr. Mary Barbera. (2022, June 23). Marybarbera.com. https://marybarbera.com/mand-training-how-teach-requesting-information/
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (Second ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Functional Communication Training | AFIRM. (n.d.). Afirm.fpg.unc.edu. https://afirm.fpg.unc.edu/functional-communication-training
MAND TRAINING. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://cornerstoneautismcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CAC-Mand-Training-Visual-Robbins.pdf
Manding Treatment Material Recommendations for VBMAPP Skills in ABA. (2019, February 13). Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/pro/child-therapist/2019/02/manding-treatment-material-recommendations-for-vbmapp-skills-in-aba#1
McClellan, M. (2020, March 19). ABA 101: Mand Training. Cornerstone Autism Center. https://cornerstoneautismcenter.com/aba-therapy/mand-training/
Meadows, Tameika., BCBA, Blog. (2022). Mand Training. I Love ABA! Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.iloveaba.com/2016/07/mand-training.html#more
Shira. (2019, March 16). Manding With “Wh Questions” – How to ABA – Shira Karpel, Shayna Gaunt. How to ABA. https://howtoaba.com/wh-manding/
March 29, 2023, Stephanie Dille-Huggins, Director of Clinical Education