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What Is a "Mand" in Autism Therapy?


Updated January 24, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is a therapy which uses behavioral theory to teach people with autism how to respond appropriately, make requests, and behave as typically as possible. ABA therapy often begins with teaching clients how to make "mands," or requests ("mand" comes from the word "command"). When the client makes his request appropriately, he or she receives a "reinforcer."

What makes a mand different from a command? According to Amanda Reed, BAppSc, MA, Director of Development at Pyramid Group Management Services Corporation (the creators of PECS picture cards), "A mand is essentially a request, but it's all about what comes before and after the request. Prior to the mand comes some kind of deprivation or aversive."

For example, a therapist, knowing that a child particularly likes Oreo cookies, might hold an Oreo in her hand and show it to the client. This is the deprivation or aversive. When the client correctly uses a mand by requesting the cookie using words, picture cards, signs, etc., the therapist responds by handing over the cookie. If the client simply grabs, the therapist withholds the cookie and instructs the client to use the appropriate mand.


Interview with Amanda Reed, BAppSc, MA, Director of Development at Pyramid Group Management Services Corporation. September, 2010.

Pronunciation: Mand
Also Known As: request, command
Janey used a mand correctly by handing a picture of an apple to the therapist. The therapist then handed over the apple, saying "Oh, you want an apple? Here's the apple!"

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