ABA Therapy Techniques: Manding, Functional Communication, and Requesting - Hidden Talents ABA

ABA Therapy Techniques: Manding, Functional Communication, and Requesting

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June 18, 2024 ABA Therapy Techniques: Manding, Functional Communication, and Requesting

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely recognized approach for helping individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and children with other developmental disabilities. Among the many techniques used in ABA, manding, functional communication training (FCT), and requesting stand out as essential methods to enhance communication and improve behavior. Here’s an overview of each:


Manding is a fundamental component of verbal behavior in ABA therapy. It involves teaching individuals to communicate their needs and wants effectively. The term "mand" comes from B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior and refers to a type of verbal operant in spoken language in which a speaker requests something they desire.

Key Aspects of Manding:

  • Motivation: Manding is driven by the individual’s motivation or need. For example, if a child is thirsty, their motivation to obtain a drink drives the mand.
  • Reinforcement: A successful mand results in the delivery of the requested item or action, reinforcing the behavior. This positive reinforcement encourages more frequent and clearer communication.
  • Contextual Relevance: Manding is context-dependent; it occurs naturally in situations where the individual has a specific need or desire.

Types of Manding

In ABA therapy, understanding the different types of manding can be crucial for effective communication training. Here are several types of manding commonly addressed in therapeutic settings:

  • Pure Mand: A pure mand occurs when an individual requests an item or action solely based on their natural motivation. For instance, a child saying "water" when they are thirsty, without any prompts or additional cues, is engaging in a pure mand.
  • Prompted Mand: A prompted mand involves some level of assistance or cue from a therapist or caregiver to help the individual make their request. For example, if a therapist holds up a picture of a toy to prompt a child to say "toy," the resulting request is a prompted mand.
  • Generalized Mand: This type of mand involves the individual requesting a variety of things using a generalized term. For instance, a child may use the word "help" to request assistance with different tasks, such as opening a jar or tying a shoelace.
  • Multiple Mands: Multiple mands occur when an individual makes several different requests in quick succession. For example, a child may say "cookie" followed by "milk" to indicate they want both items.
  • Mand Training with Different Stimuli: This type of mand training involves teaching individuals to request different items, actions, or information across various contexts. For example, a child may learn to request a "break" during a difficult task or ask for "more" when they want an additional serving of food.

Understanding these types of social interactions and manding scenarios helps therapists tailor their approach to meet the specific communication needs of each individual, fostering effective and meaningful interactions.

Functional Communication Training (FCT)

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is an evidence-based practice used to teach and replace challenging behaviors in children with more appropriate communication and social skills. FCT focuses on teaching individuals to use alternative forms of communication that achieve the same function as the problematic behaviors.

Steps in FCT:

  1. Identify the Function: Determine the purpose of the challenging behavior (e.g., escaping a task, gaining attention).
  2. Select Appropriate Communication Methods: Choose communication methods that the individual can use (e.g., vocalizations, sign language, picture exchange).
  3. Teach Alternative Communication: Train the individual to use these communication methods instead of engaging in the challenging behavior.
  4. Reinforce the New Behavior: Consistently reinforce the use of the new communication method to ensure it replaces the problematic behavior.

Benefits of Functional Communication

Functional Communication Training (FCT) offers numerous benefits for individuals with developmental disabilities, particularly those on the autism spectrum. One of the primary advantages is the reduction of challenging behaviors. By teaching alternative, appropriate communication methods, FCT provides individuals with the tools to express their needs and desires effectively, thereby decreasing frustration and the occurrence of disruptive behaviors. Additionally, FCT enhances social integration by more social interaction and facilitating better interactions with peers, caregivers, and educators. Effective communication fosters more meaningful relationships and greater participation in social settings. Furthermore, the skills gained through FCT can lead to increased independence, empowering individuals to navigate their environments and advocate for themselves with greater confidence. Overall, FCT not only improves the quality of life for those directly involved but also positively impacts their immediate social circles, creating a more supportive and understanding community.


Requesting, often used interchangeably with manding, is another crucial technique in the practice of ABA therapy. It involves teaching individuals how to make requests appropriately, ensuring their needs and wants are understood and met by others.

Components of Effective Requesting:

  • Clear Communication: Teaching the individual to use clear and understandable forms of communication, whether through words, gestures, or other means.
  • Prompting and Fading: Initially providing prompts to help the individual make requests and gradually fading those prompts to encourage independence.
  • Generalization: Ensuring the individual can make requests in various settings and with different people, not just in the therapy environment.

Types of Requesting in ABA Therapy

ABA therapy addresses various types of requesting to support the development of effective communication skills. These different types of language and requesting forms each play a role in helping individuals convey their needs and desires clearly and appropriately.

  • Spontaneous Requests: These occur naturally without any prompts from therapists or caregivers. Individuals initiate requests based on their motivation or immediate need, such as asking for a toy they want to play with.
  • Tactile Requests: This type of requesting involves the individual using physical touch to communicate their needs. For example, a child might hand a picture of an apple to a caregiver to request a snack.
  • Prompted Requests: These involve some form of prompt or cue from a therapist or caregiver to elicit a request. Prompts can be verbal, visual, or physical, such as holding up an object to trigger a request. Over time, prompts are faded to encourage independent requesting.
  • Echoic Requests: In these instances, individuals repeat words or phrases they hear from others to make requests. For example, a child may say "juice" after hearing an adult say it, to request a drink.
  • Textual Requests: This involves using written words or symbols to communicate a request. Individuals might use communication boards, apps, or other aids to write or select words that express their needs.
  • Mand-Model Requests: This strategy involves the therapist modeling a request first and then prompting the individual to repeat it. For instance, the therapist might say, "I want a book," and then prompt the child to make the same request.

Understanding the various types of requesting in ABA therapy allows therapists to tailor their interventions to meet the unique needs of each individual, fostering more effective and independent communication.


Manding, functional communication skills, and requesting are vital techniques in ABA therapy that empower individuals with ASD and children with other developmental disabilities to effectively communicate. By focusing on these methods, therapists can help reduce challenging behaviors, enhance social interactions, and improve overall quality of life for their clients.