Teaching mands for information can be a difficult task, but very rewarding. Ensure your client has a well developed mand repertoire, and they can request a variety of items and actions, using adjectives, adverbs and prepositions. Also ensure your client can also mand for attention (look, watch this/me, etc.) and appropriately use removal mands (Stop, let go, etc.). These prerequisite skills will be important before you begin teaching mands for information.
When you are teaching mands for information it is essential that you give the information and that the information is reinforcing. If you give them access to an item, or perform the action for your client, your teaching will be ineffective. Ensure that you teach each Wh, in a variety ways, in a variety of sentences and with different toys, in different environments.
When teaching What, you want you child to use questions to find out what something is. You use the following ideas:
Put a toy in a black bag, look excitedly in the bag and say ‘WOW!’. When your client is motivated and wants to see in the bag (ensure they don’t or cannot look). If your client asks to look in the bag or hold the bag, you can explain that they can’t right now because you are holding the bag. You can keep looking in the bag and continue to be excited by the toy. When your client is motivated you can can prompt “What is it?” or “What’s in the bag?” and you can tell them the name of the toy and praise them for asking. If they then request for the bag or the toy, using the label you gave, then give them access.
When teaching How, you want your child to be able to complete an action or access something, but not know how to do it independently. They must be able to complete the action physically (if you have to complete the action for them, teaching will be unsuccessful), but not know how to do the action. Here is an idea of an activity
Place a favourite toy inside a container, for instance a jar and give the jar to your client. If they ask for help, just encourage them, “You can do it, just open the jar”. It is essential that your client doesn’t know that a jar lid needs to be twisted, to make the information functional. When you client is motivated you can prompt them to ask “How do you open it?” and then you can explain “You need to twist the lid”. It is important that they are able to open the jar so this acts as a reinforcer for asking the question, as it leads them to accessing the preferred toy or item. You can also praise them for asking the question that helped them open the jar.
When teaching ‘where’ it is important you put a motivating item out of reach or in an unusual place.
If there is a favourite toy/item that is your client loves and has a regular place, move it before you session, for example, this could be colouring pens. Go with you client to get paper and then when you go to the place where the pen/pencils would be discover they are missing. You can exclaim “Oh no! The pens aren’t here!” and look confused and look around the area. When you client is motivated, you can prompt “Where are they/the pens/pencils?” and then you can respond “Oh I remember, I put them in the kitchen” and let your child go and get them.
N.B. Avoid putting things somewhere that the child can not access, for example your pocket. The information is reinforcing because it allows them to access a toy/item or action from the place.
This will have to be regarding a person or a character. The person would have to be hidden so the information is valuable to your client.
I like making pictures of people or characters your client likes (for example, Thomas the tank engine characters or Disney Princess characters) and making a fishing game with them. You just have to laminate the pictures and then place a paper clip or a staple on the picture. When you fish for the pictures you can show who you caught. If you want to increase motivation for a “Who?” question from you client, ensure they don’t see the person as you fish it, and then look at it excitedly. You can then prompt “Who do you have?” or “Who is it?” and then tell them the name of your character. Your client will need to request the picture separately if they want to see or hold the picture.
Depending on your child’s ability, you can give a specific time (2 o’clock, for example) or you can say that the activity will happen after another event or activity. The information is reinforcing because they know an exciting activity is going to happen soon. You can increase the time your client waits as the programme progresses. Here is an activity idea:
Baking would be a good idea for teaching this skill. You could bake some cakes and then let them cool. You can show your client the cakes when they are cool, but explain that you can’t eat them now. This could motivate your client to know ‘when’ you will be able to eat the cakes. You can prompt the question “When can we eat them?” and you could say “After we put icing sugar on them”. This information is reinforcing because they will know when they have done the icing sugar and put some on the cakes they can eat one of the cakes.
The answer to this question will be a ‘because …’. You may have to act in a way that seems unusual to motivate your client to enquire about the reason behind it.
For example, you could come to your session with a lot of bed sheets and place them on the floor and look puzzling at the sheets. When you have the curiosity of your client, you can prompt them to ask “Why did you bring sheets?” and you could tell them “Because we’re going to build a fort! Come and help!”. Ensure that when you give them the information, it leads to a reinforcing activity so asking for the information was beneficial to your client.
If you have any other great ideas, share them in the comments section!