Early mand/request training is a form of behavioral training that uses prompting and reinforcement of requests to get preferred items or activities. A “mand” is a functional unit of language as defined by B.F. Skinner and is controlled by student motivation to use words (or sign/pictures) to access the item, activity or information. This is the first step in teaching language as it is based upon student motivation and results in a student being reinforced specifically with what he/she has requested. It should be noted that for children who cannot imitate speech sounds or words, a different response form such as sign language may be required.
I have a new student who has extremely limited communication skills and many challenging behaviors. He can imitate some sounds and words but does not use them functionally. He will hit, scream, or scratch to get something he wants or to get out of something that he doesn’t want to do. Also, when he wants something he will just go and get it on his own. His parents report the same behaviors at home and that they often give him whatever he wants just to stop the screaming.