What Do You Want?


Submitted by: Erica Egnor

Each person with ASD has different communication skills. Some people can speak fluently in full sentences, others can’t speak at all or only very little. Due to this, functional communication training is a huge component of what we teach. Teaching functional communication skills can range from teaching Sign Language to teaching children to use an I-pad. By doing this, problem behavior can be reduced because now the child has an appropriate way to ask for something which he/she will access immediately vs. whining and crying, in which the child will not gain immediate access to what he/she wants. This part is key in decreasing problem behavior!

It’s not uncommon to see a child tantruming in public and then a care giver asking “what do you want?” or giving the child candy to cease the problem behavior. Next time the child wants something, do you think they’re going to appropriately request for it, or take the route with less response effort and just whine or cry? Most likely, problem behavior was reinforced and will occur more in the future- whoops!

There are specific protocols we use that have been successful in eliminating problem behavior while increasing appropriate requests. One protocol is called “Count Mand.” This ensures there is time in-between the inappropriate request and the appropriate request. Another reason why Count Mand is effective, aside from the one mentioned above, is so these behaviors don’t get chained together (e.g. child whines then emits correct ASL sign). Every time the child wants candy, he/she will first whine and then sign correctly because that’s what they’ve done in the past and it worked! There is no manual for parents to take home after their son/daughter is diagnosed with Autism (every child is unique), but there is Applied Behavior Analysis!