Mand City - or People Who Need People Are the Luckiest People in the World

Had a little feedback meeting with some parents this week who were trying out the Grace App for me in The Good School.

One of the parents said that she felt, she needed more opportunities to get her son to need her, in order to really get the benefit of showing him how to use the App.

And I couldn't help but wonder...

How many parents fall into the trap of giving their kids independent access to everything they need, and miss out on the opportunities to create and increase the frequency of their kid's  "Mands?"

The inverted commas are deliberate as Mand is a madey uppy word coined by the king of behavourial science and madey uppy words B.F. Skinner.

Now don't run away, I promise the science ends here.

It is short for comMAND and deMAND and we must ensure that our language or learning delayed children have the ability to make a lot of Mands appropriately.

Why? - because it is the basis of almost all communication for someone who isn't naturally socially motivated. And you can prompt it.

To paraphrase Cheap Trick; to get your kids communicating, by any means; you need them to need you!

You have to become an integral bridge between what they want and how to get it. And by association  someone they want to interact with.

To do this in a basic way, you watch what the kid likes, you put it out of their reach and you prompt an appropriate way of getting it.

This can be showing them how to do a sign, or giving you a card with a picture on it, or using the word and getting them to repeat it.

It does not mean putting one chair on top of another and climbing that, opening the cupboard and throwing everything out by themselves, before climbing down and chewing through the packet to get what they want.

Or leading you by the sleeve to the general area and having a tantrum while you get everything out of the cupboard in a mad panic until they identify the item and the tantrum subsides.

Both of these methods are a great way to work out exactly what a kid likes. Because this is about what THEY like, not what YOU want them to have.

You wouldn't work all month for a tin of baked beans or some organically grown gluten casein and virtually taste free lavosh crackers - don't expect them to.
Get out the red and pink jellies. Get out the Belgian Chocolate Chip Cookies, Get out the Dark Chocolate Ferrero. This is a teaching phase. Give it all you got.

And, once you have your information you have to set up an opportunity to teach them to get it appropriately, by engaging your attention and making their specific need known.

Then, you want to ensure that they can do this as many times as possible. So only give them a little bit at a time.

This means putting child locks on cupboards and the fridge, awkward to open or even lockable boxes and containers in presses and general subterfuge - hide what they want.

And it doesn't have to be edibles. Take their favourite video out of the room, unplug the scart lead from the back of the DVD player or hide the remote and change their favourite channel to something boring like "The History Channel" (or the Hitler Channel as we call it in our house, All Hitler All the Time...)

But ensure that you have the means by which they can request your help appropriately - accessible so it can be quickly prompted. If you are using pictures, make sure they are stored where the child can grab them easily. If it's sign, be sure everyone who is in your house can recognise it. And if you are using the Grace App, have the phone on your person where they can grab it easily and find the picture

And having done that, do it again. And Again And Again.

Make your Child Need You. Because People Who Need People are the Luckiest (Autistic) People in the World...

*Continuous mands can be a pain in the arse. As I found during the very interrupted writing of this post. 

"I WANT 2 Drinks, I WANT Door Open, I want MONKEY Cootar (Yoko Jakamoto Toto) but once you get it happening you can then use it to teach them to discriminate their specific choices, as I will tell you next time. But now I have to go and plug the scart lead back into the DVD player... xx


Petunia said…
Great post! If anyone was in doubt what a mand was they know now :) You really do have to use EVERY opportunity to get mands so that they can become spontanious. I remember hearing phrases like "sanitise the environment" when I was learning ABA and wish I had a teacher like you back then! xx
Jen said…
Love this. I have been finding it hard to explain the concept of PECS to people who don't understand why we hide things and think we are being mean because my child is non-verbal and can't ask for the item. He does ask, he just asks with PECS!! This, and knowing about Mands, will make it a lot easier, in fact, I will just tell them to read this :) Jen.
Make Do Style said…
I love learning these things. You need to lecture at a uni!
Jean said…
This was something we've been working on even in pre-dx days...our ST got us to seal crisps in a transparant box and show it to Bob.
he had to look us in the eye and make an attempt at vocalisation before he was given ONE WHOLE CRISP...we felt like the biggest meanies on eart, but within one hour, guess what...we had eye contact and sounds. Now 3 years later, he can say "I want crisps".
He would still do everthing independently if we allowed him to...we just keep changing the goalposts.
Cool post missus XXX
Andra said…
Fab post, we are lucky in so far as our little man can tell us what he wants but in some cases he needs pictures, we definitely have a reward system in place in return for effort put in by him, his main reinforcer is computer games and he knows that homework has to be done first before he gets what he wants so now he comes in and says I want to do my homework first and then computer!! I am sure that won't last lol.
Lisamaree said…
Petunia: Thanks. I actually had your early training in mind when I typed "casein/gluten/virtually taste free" in mind. That poor kid was expected to mand for a single rice crispie! no wonder his unprompted mands existed at all!

Jen: it goes for any promptable communication but you are right, you have to go against instinct and age typical development to get the mand rates up, and outsiders don't understand this.

Kate: Thankyou doll. I would love to!

Jean: I was prompted by that mother and a post on twitter about our kid's resourcefulness to write it out. Keep moving the goal posts and keep the connection growing.

Andra: It's not just about rewards. It is the entire culture of your life. You have to create an environment where they must interact with you constantly in order to get the mand rate up and give you opportunities to build language. It is very tiring sometimes! xx
My aspie son has no problem with mands, if anything we have tooooo many. More interesting for Smiley and dealing with her cerebral palsy. She is very vocal and is clearly dying to talk. If you really listen to when and why she vocalises, it's fairly clear what she wants, but this post makes me wonder if I had worked harder when she was younger, would she be talking now? The fact that she does still vocalise when many of her peers don't, at least shows I was doing the right thing by reacting to her all the time and trying to meet her 'mands'.
Lisamaree said…
Candi: it is never too late to generate and then develop mands. I bet Smiley has a lot to say to you - and she would not be hindered by the autie reluctance to communicate thoughts and feelings for the sake of it. I bet if we put our heads together we could come up with a promptable means. And I am thinking iPad! xx
Truf said…
Talking about goalposts - my monkey has the vocabulary and the grammar, but his pragmatic speech is quite bad. I know I should make him explain himself instead of stepping in and filling the gaps for him, but it demands superhuman self-control! Nice to know there is a theory behind it - this will encourage me to persist asking questions instead of trying to work out what the story is!
Peeking rabbit said…
I don't really comment much but we talk by email and im so it's not spam. Anyways a Ferreo Rocher for me, (in normal) and tag you're it
Anonymous said…
You also don't need to filled them with crap, dye filled food in order to reward them. A token system working towards computer use, videos and so on is more desirable and normalizing. Parents, biomed can be paired with good ABA. I prefer to listen to parents who have actually recovered their children. Life in residential isn't the goal for my child.
Lisamaree said…
Dear Anonymous: What's the weather like up there on that pedestal you put yourself?

If you had ever bother to actually read the blogs you sully, rather than just google keywords so you can go and troll - you would know that I have worked very hard at helping my kids reach their full potential, while maintaining a good quality of life.

Why don't you go stick a magnet up your bum and enjoy your own radiance?


next time try using a real name. Grow a set why don't ye?
crazy mum said…
Im sorry to interfere but I have to say something. Anonymous, how dare you assume that just because I chose not to go down the bio route with my son, that my goal for him is residential.
I work damn hard with my son, and he has come on leaps and bounds, alot of which is thanks to hammie and her advice. I dont believe you "recover" a child with Autism but I respect your opinion. I love my son more than anything in the world, just as he is and I will help him as best as I can. Just because you give a coeliac different food and help theyre symptoms doesnt mean theyre no longer coeliac.
I give my son treats and "crap" as you call it, just like I do his brother. He is a child, and works very hard so deserves to be treated and rewarded for his determination.
I think you should think very careful before you belittle other parents, and have a little bit more respect.
In my opinion you sound ashamed of what your child is, and I think I can safely say no other parent on here feels that way. I want my son, just as he is. Not a robot.