Help Me Find My Voice: Where to Start with Students Who Are Non-Verbal

Thursday, June 22, 2017
Guest Blog Post by Rosemarie Griffin

Working with students with autism or other complex communication disorders can be overwhelming. With the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders being 1 in 68 children, we as speech language pathologists are responsible for helping these students find their voice. As clinicians, we provide the critical guidance that helps students identify, acquire, and use a functional response form.

When we have a student who is non-verbal or limited verbally working on direct instruction of manding or requesting skills is needed. Sometimes a goal for manding is not created, as many of the standardized tests that we use in the field do not test this area of language. Before we discuss strategies for incorporating manding into your student’s day, we first need to outline what manding is exactly.

Manding. A mand is a request. This chart explains this concept more in depth.

Verbal response
Specific to the learner’s motivation
After seeing a cookie            Saying “eat cookie”
Wanting to play iPad             Saying “iPad”
Seeing a book you like          Saying “read book”
Wanting a drink                    Saying “drink”
Seeing a ball                         Saying “let’s play ball”

Below is a detailed explanation of what a structured manding session might look like for a student using an AAC device.

The teacher is working with a middle school student who is a very early learner. He has not had access to a robust education program, so he is working on acquiring a functional response form. He is currently using a picture exchange system. He is working on using one picture to request wanted items and actions: he takes the desired picture off of the correct category page, puts it on the velcro phrase strip on the front part of his book, and hands it to the teacher.

The manding session takes place at the start of his time spent working one on one with his teacher. The teacher has in her possession some of his favorite things: DVD player, chips, Pete the Cat book, Gatorade, and a slinky.

Manding Session:
Student: Puts his picture book onto the table. Puts the picture of Gatorade on the sentence strip of his picture book and hands it to the teacher.

Teacher: “Yeah, let’s get you some Gatorade.” Pours a small amount of Gatorade into a cup and hands it to the student.

Student: Drinks the Gatorade. Hands the sentence strip with the Gatorade icon on it to the teacher.

Teacher: “Drinking Gatorade.” Pours another small amount of Gatorade into a cup and hands it to the student.

Student: Tries to reach for the slinky.

Teacher: “You want the slinky.” Goes to the toy page in the book and points to the picture of slinky.

Student: Grabs the picture, puts it on the phrase strip and hands it to the teacher.

Teacher: “Here is the slinky.”

Student: Plays with the slinky for 30 seconds.

Teacher: Presents the student with the Pete the Cat Book. “I have Pete the Cat.”

Student: Continues to play with the slinky.

Teacher: “Oh, you want to play with the slinky some more.”

Student: Plays with the slinky for 30 more seconds. Goes to the food page in his book, selects the chips picture, puts it on the phrase strip and hands it to the teacher.

Teacher: “Chips.” Gets a plate and gives the student 3 chips.

Student: Eats the chips. Hands the phrase strip to the teacher again with the word chips on it.

Teacher: “Eating chips.” Hands the student more chips.

Student: Points to the DVD player.

Teacher: Because this is a new mand for the learner, shows the student where this is located in the book and points to the correct photo.

Student: Puts the DVD picture on his phrase strip and hands it to the teacher

Teacher: “Let’s watch a movie.” Student and teacher watch 2 minutes of his favorite movie.

 No matter your student’s age, if they are limited verbally direct instruction with manding is essential. Helping others find their voice is such hard and rewarding work. I hope that when you encounter a student at this language level that you will work directly on manding.

Rosemarie Griffin is a speech language pathologist, board certified behavior analyst and product developer. She is the creator of the Action Builder Cards. To learn more about this manding or to gather information about using applied behavior analysis to help students increase their communication skills, check out her website or like her facebook page here: ABA SPEECH ON FACEBOOK.

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