Comparison of high- and low-preference items to teach children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to mand for information using "where" and "who"

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Miljkovic, Morena
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In general, a mand is a requesting response. While basic mands are often those that occur first in language development (e.g., “I want juice”), mands for information are more advanced and often lacking in children with autism, who often lack a functional language repertoire and demonstrate impairment in communication. Teaching children to mand for information can help them learn advanced language skills, increase their communication skills, and aid in decreasing challenging behaviours. Previous research has shown that using the most effective reinforcers when teaching children with autism results in quicker skill development; however, children with autism often display a restricted repertoire of interests. The current study sought to teach six preschool age children with autism to mand for information using “Where” and “Who” while comparing high-preference and low-preference reinforcers through a multi-element design. All six children were able to learn to mand for information about an item, and were able to generalize this skill to a novel environment. Contrary to what was predicted, there was no difference between the high preference and low preference items during training. Instead, the difference in skill acquisition was related to the mand being taught. The current findings suggest that both high preference and low preference items can use used when teaching new skills, suggesting that parents and clinicians can use a range of items/activities when teach children with autism.
Autism spectrum disorder, mand training, preference