Manding ABA: How Can it be Encouraged?

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

What do you want?

I want pizza, more water, give me a hug, and play with me are all examples of mands. Manding, requesting what you want, is an essential skill for individuals to be able to communicate their wants and needs. What are some important things you can ask for? You can request help, food, water, items, activities, information, attention, and much more. Why is this important? Manding is a critical life skill because it promotes self-advocacy, independence, and social skills. Additionally, this skill helps decrease maladaptive behaviors one may engage in as an attempt to get what they want.

How Does Manding Decrease Maladaptive Behavior?

Why would increasing manding decrease maladaptive behaviors? Just think about it, if you didn’t have the means to communicate what you want, would you possibly cry till someone starts offering you things? Or maybe crying doesn’t work, would you possibly scream, hit, kick, scratch, bite or even throw things until you finally got what you needed? Absolutely. It is frustrating to be unable to communicate your needs, thus you would try in any way you could think of (and is reinforced) to get others to give you what you want.

What Strategies May Help Motivate My Client to Engage in Manding?

Now that we have established the importance of manding, what are some ways we can motivate our clients to mand? First, you want to find out what the child finds highly reinforcing. How can you accomplish this? You can observe what items they tend to gravitate to by conducting, or asking their caregivers to conduct, a preference assessment. Once you know what they find rewarding, you can begin mand training. Click here to download our preference survey as well as other tools that aid in learning essential communication skills. Utilizing this tool can help you discover your clients’ motivators and figure out what they are most likely to mand for.

Mand Training

The approach for mand training must be individualized, just like any intervention in ABA. So, you want to ask yourself, does this client already have any words, PECS, or signs? If not, you are likely going to need heavier prompting and reinforce approximations. What if my client already has a variety of mands in their repertoire, but I would like to increase the number of mands? You can contrive manding opportunities like giving a child cereal without their milk or a coloring page without crayons. Or you might even have the child’s favorite toy just out of reach in order to motivate them to ask you for help or an item.


Manding is an essential skill, one that you certainly want to monitor for client success. If you’re looking for a better way to keep track of all your manding targets and your clients’ performance, tools like Catalyst can help. With Catalyst, you can collect all your data on your personal device and the system will automatically graph your data. Also, Catalyst allows you to collect preference assessment data and have the results calculated automatically. Additionally, you can indicate and score the specific prompt you utilized when running each trial. To sign up for a Catalyst trial click here.


Rosales, R., & Rehfeldt, R. A. (2007). Contriving transitive conditioned establishing operations to establish derived manding skills in adults with severe developmental disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40(1), 105-121.

Torelli, J. N., Lambert, J. M., Da Fonte, M. A., Denham, K. N., Jedrzynski, T. M., & Houchins-Juarez, N. J. (2016). Assessing acquisition of and preference for mand topographies during functional communication training. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 9(2), 165-168.



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