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Manding Ideas for Watching Online Videos: Ways to Practice Communication

A picture of a cel phone displaying a video of a blue train moving on a track.

If you're not familiar with the term "manding," I'll start with a brief overview of what it is, then share some ideas for how you can use this concept to help your child or student practice language and communication skills.

Autism Speaks (n.d.) offers a great description of this concept and how it can empower students with autism to communicate their needs and preferences.

According to Autism Speaks, working on manding helps kids (and older folks too!) learn communication skills by connecting words with their purposes...students learn that language can help them get objects, activities, foods, etc. that they want or need (Sundberg and Michael, 2001, as cited in Albert, Carbone, Murray, Hagerty, & Sweeney-Kerwin, 2012).

In very simple terms, a "mand" can be thought of as a request. The student asks for something (such as by saying "cracker," signing "cracker" or handing you a picture of a cracker, etc.). Once the student makes this request, the parent or teacher repeats the word and gives the student the cracker. One way that I tell my college students they can remember this term is that it sounds like the word "demand." This can help us remember that it's a doesn't necessarily have to be "demanding," but I find that to be a helpful trick for remembering the meaning of the term.

Here are some ways that you can practice this skill if you child or student loves to watch videos online. Most of these apply primarily to viewing videos on a computer (rather than a mobile device), but many of them can be adapted for use with a mobile device.

For each of these, you'll notice that it's a "mand" because the child is asking you to do something (such as typing letters into a search box or pressing the play button) that will result in something he or she wants: to watch a video.

  1. Request to watch the videos: Have the student ask you before bringing up the YouTube website or app. You could prompt the student to say something like, "I want to watch trains" "watch trains," "train video," etc. I'll post some links about how to use prompting at the end of the post.

  2. Letter Identification: If your student wants to watch a video about trains, you can type the word into the search box and have the student name each letter as you type it. I think this would work best if the student has seen you type in the word "trains" before and he or she understands that typing the word will lead to getting to see a video. To add extra letters to the practice, you could add additional words to the search, such as "two trains," "railroad trains," etc.

  3. Spelling: You have the student spell the words to search for and you type each letter as they say it.

  4. Typing: Have the student type the words (if they've had previous experience typing and know things like home row, etc.).

  5. Volume: You can turn the volume down and have the student ask you to "turn it up" or "turn up the volume," etc. If you accidentally have the sound too loud, it's a good opportunity to have the student ask you to "turn it down." I don't necessarily recommend doing this on purpose, because I wouldn't want to do something unpleasant for the student.

  6. Play Button: You can have the student ask you to "push play" to start the video. You can also pause the video every once in a while to have the student ask you to "push play" or "watch trains," etc. and then you can play the video again after the request.

  7. Size Words: The student can ask for the video to be "big" or "small" (full-screen vs. not-full-screen, not sure what that's called, LOL). You can use whatever terms you want for this. I prompt my students to say, "big trains" before I make the video full-screen.

You don't have to do all of these each time your child or student watches a video; I just wanted to give you a variety of ideas. I would recommend consulting with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) when teaching these skills to your child or student, as they will likely have specific training in effective ways to work on manding and prompting (and an important part of this process: prompt fading).

Prompting and Prompt Fading

In order to get your child or student to use language to request things (as we talked about in the activity above), you will often need to provide a prompt or demonstration for what you want the child to say. There are a few great blog posts written by other educators that outline how to use prompts (and how to “fade” the prompts, so that the student doesn't become dependent on them). Check out these links for tips and consult with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) for more instruction on how to use prompts and prompt fading.


Albert, K. M., Carbone, V. J., Murray, D. D., Hagerty, M., & Sweeney-Kerwin, E. J. (2012). Increasing the mand repertoire of children with autism through the use of an interrupted chain procedure. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5(2): 65–76. doi: 10.1007/bf03391825. You can read the article here:

Autism Speaks (n.d.). What is verbal behavior therapy? Retrieved from

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