“ A stimulus whose termination (or reduction in intensity) functions as reinforcement.”
When I hear a loud noise that I no longer want to hear such as a loud radio, I turn the radio off . I have now “terminated” the noise and am more likely to do this again in the future to remove the noise as it was previously reinforced.
“ An elementary verbal operant that is evoked by an MO and followed by specific reinforcement.”
An example would be when a child is “requesting” and item because he wants it. The child requests a pen because he wants one (e.g. wants the pen to draw, etc). Receiving the pen itself is the reinforcement for requesting it.
When starting to work on requesting you need to have figured out prior to starting many things that the child will find “reinforcing” such as item the child is interested in. While working with the child you need to have “paired yourself with reinforcement” (e.g. the child wants to work with/or for you as you have been a fun person who has a history of providing reinforcement in the past). The child will be working with you to request many items such as toys, physical play, or food. The child will be working with you to request the items which are “reinforcing” or interesting to the child.
Requesting or “manding” is an important skill to teach a child. Manding teaches a child that “I talk, I get”. This teaches the child that communication is powerful, and gives the child some control over his environment. It can also help to replace previous negative behaviors that have functioned as communication previously. Requesting is difficult for children with developmental delays, just because a child can ask for a “pen” doesn’t mean the child knows to request a pen when he wants one.
Prior to working with a child on requesting it is important to make sure the child actually wants the item. In the behavioral world, we talk about making sure that the child has an EO for the item. In order to do this, you can offer items to the child and see if the child plays with or becomes engaged with the item. It is not productive for a child to learn to request an item he doesn’t want. Another part to this is also no longer “reinforcing” the child's previous ways of requesting items such as crying, hitting, or screaming. We are now working to teach the child a new way to request the item.
Some children might have some vocalizations, but it is hard to understand what they are saying. You want to work with your child to help create vocalizations that anyone who your child meets can understand. This involves ignoring or not reinforcing vocalizations that cannot be understood and shaping/reinforcing new vocalizations that can be understood.
Some children may vocalize clearly, but only do this when they are imitating others. They may spontaneously repeat the last word heard, even when they do not want the item. This ability to repeat is called “echolalia”. Sometimes the child might have been previously reinforced for their echolalia behaviors by getting the item they wanted. This is sometimes in the behavioral world referred to as the “echo not being under instructional control”. An example of this would be if you ask a child “Do you want juice or milk”. The child may have wanted milk, but only said it because it was the last thing they heard. When this happens and you give the child milk, you are reinforcing the echolalia behaviors.
Some children may script phrases that they have heard in their favorite videos or in related situations such as “blue is a hungry puppy”. Caretakers have often “interpreted” that the child is requesting something to eat, just like in the story when the character said this and got something to eat. This allows the verbalization to function as a mand and reinforces the child using this vocalization. This is called “delayed echolalia” . People who don’t know your child will not know what your child is attempting to communicate, and do not reinforce the request. This can lead to tantrums and frustrations for the child.
Even if your child can use longer sentences you want to begin by teaching functional single words. This will help to teach “I talk, I get” and the child will be able to discriminate what word actually gets them the item. Its best to wait to introduce “carrier phrases” such as “I want” or “I see” after the child has mastered good imitation skills and has many tacts.
When teaching a child to request items, make sure they have learned the functional item first before moving on to ambiguous terms such as the color of an item or “please”. Words such as “please” and “thank you” should be treated the same as adjectives. These words increase the length of a sentence, but can lead to the child not communicating functionally, if reinforced incorrectly. Make sure you are setting the child up for success while learning and that these words do not sometimes “replace” the functional mand when the child is learning to request. If a child walks up to you and says “ I want more please” or “I want red, please”, you do not know what they want, although they have said a 4 word phrase. Requesting an item using “please or thank you” might be reinforcing for caregivers to hear, but can set a child up have an the adjective reinforced and not the mand.
Make sure that you as a caregiver do not reinforce behaviors such as crying or screaming when working on requesting. Children might go though an “extinction burst” when what previously worked to get an item does not work anymore. Remember if you allow a behavior to work for communication, there will be no need for words, and the child will continue to use it.
Make sure if you are prompting the child, you are setting them up for success. Do not get yourself in a “stand off” situation in which the child must “talk before he gets this item”. Have “tricks in your hat” to set the child up for success such as fill-ins, pictures, textural prompts/written words etc. Use what prompting strategies you need to make sure the child accesses the rienforcer and that you are paired with reinforcement.