Manding for Information – Teaching WH Requests

Manding for information is an important skill. I ask questions all day.

Manding for information refers to the process in which information becomes a conditioned reinforcer as it leads to an already established reinforcer. So basically, ask a question, and use the information to do/get something useful.

featured-content-ipad-icon_2xHere’s an example;


Learner: ‘where’s the iPad?’ (this is the ultimate reinforcer)


Adult/peer: ‘in the kitchen’ (the useful information leading to the ultimate reinforcer)

Learner goes to the kitchen to get the iPad

Here’s some practical tips on how you can teach this skill. When you start out, you need to identify some strong reinforcers; these can be used as the items/activities that motivate/reinforce the learner to ask the ‘wh’ questions. The reason you should start out with highly motivating items is because nobody asks a question if they don’t care about the answer (for example, I am very unlikely to ask ‘where’s the cauliflower’ and much more likely to ask ‘where’s the chocolate’).

You should teach at least 2 WH questions at the same time to help with discrimination hex_pat(so the learner doesn’t just ask ‘what’ questions all of the time).

It doesn’t always have to be a really creative process when teaching this skill, there are plenty of everyday situations in which you ask different ‘wh’ questions (it can be really creative as well if you want).

Remember it’s the information which is valuable, if you’re learner says ‘where’s the iPad?’ don’t just deliver the iPad, tell them the location, then they have to use the information to go and get it. The information is the reinforcer.

Manding for information lesson plans are a good way to prompt you when to use different ‘wh’ questions. It is good to not do 20 what questions in a row, and then 20 where questions, mix it up a bit, intersperse the WH questions. Lesson plans are also a good way to plan out;

1) the contrived situation

2) what information becomes reinforcing

3) what the ultimate reinforcer is

It breaks down the process that the learner goes through. It’s also good to teach during naturally occurring situations throughout the day even if you haven’t planned to do so (so when in a shop, the learner might spontaneously request a magazine, but they don’t know where it is, prompt ‘where is the magazine?’).

Generalise the way you can ask WH questions, for example, ‘what is it?’, ‘what are you watching?’, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘where’s the IPad?’, ‘where are we going?’ etc. This will encourage the learner to emit novel responses, which is the ultimate goal. Don’t just teach ‘where is it?’ and ‘what is it?’.

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Manding for info data sheet (adapted from Carbone Clinic data Sheet)

Now, I’d never say no to data, it’s always a good 
way to track if what you’re doing is effective
. You can even just tally prompted versus spontaneous use of the targeted WH uestions

As always, differentially reinforce responses (give more social praise/reinforcement for more spontaneous responses).

So if you want to work on this in a spare 15 minute period, firstly give some thought to what the ultimate reinforcer will be (what is the learner getting out of it), think about which WH questions you are targeting (might be 2 for intensity, or more than 2, depends on the learner), and get ready to create situations for the learner to ask. When you have identified that the learner has motivation for the information, the teaching procedure would be as follows,

  • Contrive situation (adult says – ‘lets play with the iPad’)
  • Prompt response (adult models what to say -‘where is the iPad?’ and waits for the learner to repeat it back (this is an echoic prompt))
  • Fade your prompt (independent response if possible ‘where’s the iPad?’)
  • Give the information and differentially reinforce (dependent on how independent the learner’s responses were)

If manding for information is totally new to your learner, it may be worth running a few trials using steps 1, 2, and 4 (contrive, prompt, give information), and you can fade your prompts over each trial, again, it depends on the learner.

The awesome Busy Analytical Bee has also just posted about this – you should check it out for some good ideas how to teach each WH mand – https://busyanalyticalbee.com/2017/02/22/teaching-mands-for-information/.

So there you have it, a brief snippet on how to teach a real important part of your learners’ mand repertoire.

Go on, Get Stuck in – 12 Messy Play ideas

Messy play is a right good laugh.

It can serve many functions, whether it be a good pairing activity, a reinforcer, a good manding session, desensitising learners to textures, encouraging them to eat, and even incorporating goals through NET. It can all be done, and I for one, thoroughly enjoy getting a bit messy. 

Pinterest is awesome for checking out some good ideas. I’ve got a cheeky little ABA board you can check out here for some ideas, amongst other things. 

More often than not, you’ll have things that are lurking in the back of your cupboard that can be used. My favourite activity is so simple, and consists of 2 ingredients; 1 cup cornflour and half cup soap (or shower gel, shampoo etc). Mix them together, and boom, you’ve some lovely putty/dough style substance, which smells lovely!

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Here are other some ideas;

  • Oats
  • Water and cornflour
  • Rice
  • Pasta (cooked or uncooked, and you can use gluten free) 
  • Crazy Soap
  • Paint
  • Sand
  • Water play
  • Jelly
  • Ice
  • Foil
  • Water beads

 

Combining a bunch of these can go to next level sorts of fun.

Before I finish up, here’s a couple of ideas on how you can teach some different goals within messy play. 

  • Mands – teach hands for all resources you use, and actions for them (e.g. water, soap, pour)
  • Tact – labelling different items and actions within the activity (e.g. water, soap, pouring)
  • Imitation – imitate actions within messy play (e.g. imitate sprinkling rice, pouring water, sliding ice)
  • Visual – match different items within messy play (e.g. match red cup to red cup)
  • Listener Responding – ask the learners to carry out actions/find objects within messy play (e.g. can you splash? Pour the water, find the cup)
  • Independent play – increase duration of independent play activities 
  • Intraverbal – whilst playing, saying and filling in different actions (e.g. you splash the ….water)

You can do all of this, whilst having a really good time. So go on, get stuck in.

NET – Where Learning Should be Super Fun

Hey! Apologies for the long silence. As many people reading this may know, September is a mad month! I should be back in the game now.

A large part of most programmes should consist of natural environment teaching (NET). This refers to teaching in typically occurring daily events; basically learning away from the table/clinical setting. For younger learners, this could be through play, for older learners, it could be out in the community.

It’s a good idea to choose (where possible) motivating topics to embed your teaching. This way learning is fun! Make a list of all of your current targets, next to a list of your learners’ favourite topics/games, and see how you can relevantly incorporate the different targets among them. For older learners, targets may lend themselves to a more functionally oriented programme (as opposed to a developmentally sequenced set of targets), so it’s a good idea to set your targets based on the common environments the learner accesses (e.g. setting goals across all of the verbal operants based on going to the shop, local swimming pool, train station etc). A good way to plan all of this is to create a NET lesson plan for yourself. Be sure to include easy tasks also, as we should always strive to follow the teaching procedures outlined in my previous blog.

Here’s an example NET lesson plan for a younger learner (sheet derived from Carbone Clinic)

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The best thing about NET is that you can make it so fun that the learner doesn’t even see it as ‘learning’ (in the boring sense of the word). A big part of ABA is programming responses for generalisation, and NET is a great opportunity for this. Lesley Love, the teacher/BCaBA who hired me originally at Treetops, always said that every part of the day was a teachable moment, not just the time spent in the classroom, and challenged us to take advantage of every moment. This has always stayed with me. It’s also a good opportunity to model lots of appropriate skills, such as play skills/functional skills, and to constantly model appropriate vocal behaviour (you should always be talking, I never shut up!).

It’s been my experience so far that therapists (myself included when I first started!) find table work easier, because it’s structured. It can be more challenging to teach in the natural environment, but we must strive to, it’s really important. I found the best way to get better at NET was planning. The NET lesson plan is a gift, organisation and preparation is key. Saying this, the therapist also needs to be flexible enough to adapt to unplanned for teaching opportunities.

Another point to make is that the child’s VR (schedule of reinforcement (how many responses are required before something good for the learner happens)) can often get overlooked, and as a result more problem behaviour can occur during NET, so be mindful of this.

Plan well, have fun, and use every moment. Get yourself in the natural environment and have a right nice time.