Teaching Autoclitics and Manding for Information with Dr. Sarah Lechago

We often discuss early learners and foundation skills on the podcast, but today we are discussing an important skill for intermediate learners. Dr. Sarah Lechago is an associate professor in the Behavior Analysis Master’s program at the University of Houston, Clear Lake. And she also directs the Verbal Behavior Clinic there and co-directs the Connecting the Dots program. Today, Dr. Lechago is sharing with us her research and work on manding for information and autoclitics.

What is manding for information?

Manding is the skill of asking questions, it’s a part of our daily life as we mand for items, mand for attention, and many other requests and needs. Manding for information involves asking questions that will receive meaningful information. Before teaching your child or client to mand for information, they should be manding for items that are in front of them. Dr. Lechago and I discuss how she teaches where and how manding for missing items in her trials. There are many steps involved in manding for information in this setting, with an engaging activity the learner will notice a needed item is missing, mand (ask) where it is, and follow the directions (the information they received by asking) to find and retrieve the missing item. This is a hallmark skill that contributes to more learning and conversation skills in a child’s life. In the episode, Dr. Lechago and I go into detail about the skills needed to master manding for information and how to get there.

What are autoclitics?

I am not a proponent of teaching carrier phrases too early, but an autoclitic is a sentence frame that a learner should use when manding, especially when manding for information. Words like Where, Who, What, Which, How, should not be taught in isolation but rather in the presence of an item in an autoclitic frame. Dr. Lechago uses the example, “Where is the…” this is an autoclitic frame that directs the learner to ask for specific information about a specific item. So instead of saying just, “spoon” when looking for the spoon, the child would say, “where is the spoon?”. This frame is the child manding for the location of an item, and the answer to this mand would be the place and directions to find the spoon. Teaching these phrases can help learners know how to mand for the information they are looking for, like, where is an item or who has an item.

Practicing manding in your natural environment

Children and adults of all ages use manding every day. However, it’s not necessarily intuitive to notice the opportunities for manding on your own. Dr. Lechago and I discuss several ways to take the demand of manding practice and utilize natural needs for manding for information. Some simple fun ways are through game play. In this episode I talk about how I watched my son, Lucas play Go Fish and naturally mand for information during his turn in the game, “Do you have the red card”. Playing games is an easy, stress free way to practice this. Additionally, we say “sabotage” your routine. Make a noticeable, conscious mistake like forgetting utensils at breakfast or leaving the light on before bed. When your child notices, they can learn to mand for information like “where is the fork” or “why is the light on”. Dr. Lechago discusses how she uses meaningful, engaging activities like building a volcano in her manding trials. These are fun and exciting but it does not have to be the bar in which you practice manding at your home.

Dr. Sarah Lechago references really great articles, studies, and research in addition to her own in today’s episode. She also shares some quick tips for parents and professionals considering teaching manding for information. If you’re looking to learn more about manding for information and teaching intermediate learners, check out all of the linked resources.

Teaching Autoclitics and Manding for Information with Dr. Sarah Lechago

Dr. Sarah Lechago On The Turn Autism Around Podcast

Dr. Sarah Lechago is an Associate Professor in the Behavior Analysis master’s program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL). She directs the UHCL Verbal Behavior Clinic (VBC) and co-directs the UHCL Connecting the Dots program. Her research interests include verbal behavior, student and caregiver training, motivating operations, and diversity, inclusion, and equity. She has published in numerous journals including JEAB, JABA, and TAVB. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for the TAVB journal. She also serves as the founder and Chair of the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis’ (TxABA) Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity for Everyone (EDIE) Committee.


  • What is manding for information?
  • What are autoclitics?
  • What are the prerequisites for manding for information?
  • How to practice manding with games.
  • How to practice manding for information in daily routines.
  • Teaching mands for Where and How vs. What and Which.
  • When should you use autoclitic frames?
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 182
Teaching Autoclitics and Manding for Information with Dr. Sarah Lechago
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Dr. Sarah Lechago

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number 182. Today we are covering an important intermediate topic that is manding for information about how we teach kids with autism, how to request information, how to ask what, where, why, how, those sorts of things. We have Dr. Sarah Lechago, who is an associate professor in the Behavior Analysis Master's program at the University of Houston, Clearlake. And she also directs the Verbal Behavior Clinic there and co-directs the Connecting the Dots program. Dr. Lechago research interests include verbal behavior, student and caregiver training, and diversity, inclusion and equity. So it was a great discussion about how to get children to mand for all kinds of information, also how to get them to request for missing items, and how to follow directions. We talk about her research as well as just some of the challenges that parents and professionals face when trying to teach intermediate learners. Let's get to this important episode.

Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed, and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst, and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: Okay, Sarah, it is so nice to have you on the show. Thank you so much for your time today.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah, thank you for the invitation. I'm excited to be here.

Dr. Sarah Lechago on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Mary: So we've met a few times at the ABAI Conference and I've seen your work and I've seen your present. And most recently I saw you present at the at a conference of Verbal Behavior Conference in Texas, all about the subject we're going to cover today, which is Manding for information and how to teach kids to start asking questions. But before we get into that, I always start with the same question. Describe your fall into the autism world.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah, so it started probably like a lot of other people. I was an undergraduate psychology major at the University of Houston Main Campus, which has, by the way, a really cool history in the field of ABA, because that is where Jack Michael advised Ted Ayllon. And hence from that came the paper, the psychiatric nurses, behavioral engineers. So we have some with some cool history there. But you know, I was an undergraduate psychology student who wanted to get some experience working with people. And there was at the time a Lovass research replication site. I know that has some some people have feelings about that, but that's what it was at the time. And I was very curious about I took a behavior modification course and wanted some practical experience. And I loved the idea of working with individuals and teaching them how and just teaching new skills. I worked with very young children and I was hooked. I was hooked because of the scientific or objective nature of it all. And I was hooked because it was just so wonderful, not only seeing the children learning new skills, but how that affected the rest of the family. And that was so powerful and so meaningful for me that I knew, well, I've got to make a career out of this. So after I graduated, I went and worked as a early intervention specialist for the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, working with children from 0 to 3, and introduced the concept of applied behavior analysis to the program. And got I started getting a lot of requests from parents for me because they wanted ABA and and then from there I went and applied to graduate school wanting to continue my focus on working with individuals with autism or autistic individuals and their families. Yeah.

Mary: Yeah, it is a very common path. Most of my guests that I asked to describe their fall into their parents, obviously they got involved usually first by having a child, but sometimes they were professional and then they have a child with autism. And then for the professionals, it's mostly like answering an ad going to go a young persons house with autism. And there's been quite a few guests, including myself, who've transitioned from a Lovaas approach to a verbal behavioral approach over the years. And you are really one of the leaders in the whole verbal behavior field of ABA.

Dr. Lechago: I had great training. I have. I mean, I'm at Western Michigan Univeristy with Jim Carr and Jack Michael and Barb Esch and my lab mates are Caio Miguel and Ana Petursdottir. So yeah, yeah.

Mary: We're in the right place at the right time. And I feel like I was too to get to get a lot of this training. So now, you know, I read your intro, but now you, you write in a verbal behavior clinic and you are at the master's program at the University of Houston So how did you get interested in study? Manding For information? And before we say how you got involved is can you tell us what Manding for information is just to kind of get everybody on the same page?

What is Manding for Information?

Dr. Lechago: Sure. It's essentially just it's asking questions. So it's versus making requests for items I like to describe, which is asking questions. And so these are your who, what, when, where, how, why kind of questions. And it's just such a critically important skill. I always tell people, imagine getting through the day without asking questions, how would that look? How would you do that? And people can't fathom it. I know it's such an important part of our life, so how I got into it. So I've always been interested in language. I come from a multilingual home, I'm really lucky that way and I've always had an interest in language. So I went into the field interested in language and ended up, as you said, in the right place at the right time in just a prime place for studying verbal behavior with the right people. And it was really started with my thesis. So my first publication came from my thesis study and I was just reading some journal articles. I came across one on manding for information. I said, This is really interesting. And then I discussed it with my advisor, Jim Carr, and I. And so I wrote my proposal for it was for a research methods class, actually, which Jim taught. And then he said, This is really good. You should actually run this study. And I said, okay, let's do it. This is my thesis. And I think I like I like language. I like teaching people. And I like a good challenge. And so I think that when you look at the research literature and the evolution of the research related to manding for information, one of the things that we've had to really learn how to do is understand that antecedent control, motivating operations, SDs, how to work together, you know, and how do you program in such a way that we get smooth, fluent marketing at the right time that maintains over time. And it's a fun challenge. And it can be a challenge, but one that I like taking on. This is a critically important skill. And so it just stayed with me. And I think one of the things that made a lot of impact for me on me, rather was I met Mark Sundberg, Mark at a VB Sig meeting at ABAI and I think and then I told him because one of his studies was an inspiration. Sundberg, Loeb, Hale, and Eigenheer was one of the inspirations for my study. And so I said, Hey, this is what I'm doing. What do you think? And he said, This is really great. He was very encouraging. And then later he saw the study. He saw me present the study and and he said, you know, you really have a good model here for studying this. Keep going. It was. And so I think it was after he accepted a job. It's been some time now, some kind of my timeline's off. But he was so encouraging. He's like, you kind of figured out a nice model. Keep keep plugging in and asking, ask the questions, ask about manding, evaluate manding for information. So that's what we kept on doing.

Mary: Okay. So we can put, you know, any of these studies that were published in Java, we can link them in the show notes. The show notes are going to be at MaryBarbera.com/182. I'd also like to link the article that you mentioned in the very beginning, the psychiatric nurse article, which I think, you know, really started the field. And as a registered nurse myself, it is very interesting. And I like if I didn't have autism in my life, like applying the science of ABA to the medical field would be just a lot of fun and then I also wanted to link Mark Sandberg's podcast interview in the show notes as well and kind of bring it back for the people that may be driving or exercising. And they're a parent and they don't really even know what a mand is, let alone a mand for information and that sort of thing. I do like the analogy or the situation which Mark Sundberg goes over, went over in a lecture one time. He said, like, if you're having if you go to a conference and you sit in the front row and you don't know anybody, you didn't come with anybody. Like to start a conversation usually is like the room is cold or or, you know, oh, it's beautiful in here or something like that, which is part of tacting your environment, but also a mand for attention. And then if the person is also like you didn't come with anybody, isn't distracted, they might start manding for a well, have you ever been here before? Are you are you from? And then there's that answering the question, which is an intraverbal and then we bounce back to well then I'm going to say how, you know, but if you're in a rush on the phone or something and somebody is asking you questions, you're like, I don't have any time. I have to go. You're not going to get into that conversation. So a lot of us parents out there are like, oh, gosh, you know, if their child is vocal, verbal, you know, I hope he's conversational. And then really what I've learned over the years is all conversation is, is advanced tacts, advance mands, and advanced intraverbals. And a lot of this is multiply controlled. And there is a lot of prerequisites to manding for information. And usually, typically it's mand for information starting at two. Three at the very latest. And my 25 year old son with with severe autism, we tried to teach him some manding for information, but even manding for attention was a little rough.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah. Yeah. So. And I understand that because this thing is is how do I make information valuable to my learners? I will tell people like it has to matter to them. And there are many ways you can make things matter. But yeah, well, Mark is right. I mean, how? That's why I always tell people. I challenge people. I always say, imagine your day without asking questions. How would it work? How would you function? Right. You really can't, actually. So it's so central to communication and conversation. And it's interesting because the bulk of the research is on vocal verbal communication. I like to extend that. I've twice now attempted a study using picture exchange. More of it had to do with the students leave and then they don't continue the study because they're not as motivated. Once they get out and get the job to finish the study, then I have to move on to my other advisees. But I really want to continue to work in the area where individuals who sign or who really use picture exchange should use some forms of manding for information. I want to be able to open up those kinds of conversations to people who use different modalities of communication as well.

Mary: Yeah. So before we move on to really talking about your research, I also wanted to mention that last Thursday, Thursday, right before this Tuesday interview is is played, we did publish a video blog, which was actually it's actually a lesson for my intermediate learner course on advanced mands and with actual videos of my son years ago and videos of some of my former clients who I have video permission to show. And a couple of them were, you know, just showing that first, a child really should be requesting and things they want with the item present. And then, you know, there's a kind of a hierarchy of mands for missing items and manding for actions, and manding for yes/no and manding for attention and then manding for information. But, you know, I'm just kind of we can link that blog in the show notes as well. But what am I messing up here with the hierarchy or is that hierarchy kind of doesn't really matter?

Manding Prerequisites

Dr. Lechago: So I actually. So here's the thing. I get that question. What are the prerequisites to be receive one of my presentations? The first thing I say is great question. That's an empirical question, meaning we have to study that now. So I've actually had this conversation. It was a bit brief with Mark years ago. If you have a learner who is not manding or requesting directly for items, especially at first, if the item is they're just out of reach, I think you would be totally inappropriate to start teaching them how to like ask questions. Just they had to be able to ask for things first or you know, and but, but what's interesting is when with the study that was published in 2010, we had three very different kinds of learners and one of them was actually had fewer mands for items. So requests directly for items than the other two. But we intervened and taught him how to mand for where and then who wears the missing item, who has an item which are sort of the simpler of the questions and he successfully acquired them. So what our conclusions is, we might be able to intervene sooner than we originally thought. You do need to be able to have a learner who can be responsive to directions, though, right? So if you ask me for information and I give you the reinforcer, which is that information, where's the spoon? In the second drawer by the green cupboard. They have to be able to respond effectively to that. They have to know what to do when I tell them. Right. So that's that's important. And if information is not useful, is there not a good what we call listener and it's not really helpful for them? Right?

Mary: Right. And you know, for those of you familiar with the baby map by Mark Sundberg and my intermediate learner course it's like you know manding for information doesn't start until high level to a level three and so it's really hard I take it from my perspective as a parent of a son who was an intermediate learner, practically is entire life and still is. It's easy for, you know, you to have the water and sight and the child to ask for water or even out of sight if they're really thirsty and they know water is in the fridge or. Whatever it's hard to get to have their motivation up to say, look, a cow, you know, or it's raining outside or, you know, it's hard to get the manding for attention. And in the video blog, in the lesson, I show how I was webbed on Theresa McKeon from the TAGteach program and she was teaching me how to mark his eye contact and get Manning for attending going. And we were doing the wrong thing and she was able to like show us and we filmed it. And that was kind of an eye opener. But it is really important for children to, you know, and adults with limited language to even remark like, oh, it's raining or it's snowing or but there's that fine balance of teaching them before they're ready. And then you end up in fact, I was in the park the other day and I saw a boy with autism who I'd known for years, but he was with his staff and I said hi to him and the staff was trying to prompt him to say, How are you? So they said, How are you? As a prompt? And he said, I am fine. And I know that that's exactly what happens.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah.

Mary: Things get rote, things get crazy. And when you teach, when you don't have any prerequisites, then you end up messing up language even more.

Dr. Lechago: Yes. You know, and that's we still have so much to learn. And that's what's so humbling about this being a researcher and someone who teaches people. You have to change practices, the data directs us in that direction, just this interesting idea. So kind of tackling, hey, look, it's raining outside. So it's like bids for like joint attention. In other words, I'm asking you to notice something with me. And so it's a part label, but part hey, look. And, you know, it's sort of a new is somewhat newer conversation. I know Megan Miller talks about this like, hey, we should really work on getting them to kind of just care about kind of zoning in on something with us, right? That sort of reciprocal piece, the shared experience piece, which is an interesting concept. Do I necessarily think that they have to be able to emit a bid for joint attention to be able to mand for information? I don't know. I don't think so. Is it a better idea to get that first? Maybe? That's an empirical question. That's a good question. But if I could get you to care about that information, maybe it has a lot to do with me, but it's connected to something that's meaningful to you. I think I'm confident I can get you asking questions about it, but I do need you to be a responsive listener. In other words, you have to be able to to react to that information and information in a meaningful way. And another thing that people I don't think that they forget, but maybe that it's not at the top of their mind because you're so focused on their learner. Getting the questions right is make sure that they're using the information. So does it help them? Are they learning something new? For two reasons. One, if they don't, then the mand for information or the question is not functional, it's sort of meaningless. And two, it also gives me information, gives me information as the teacher about whether they remain motivated. Right. So if I'm teaching you to build a volcano, so we use a volcano chain because I have yet to have a student who does not like it and I hide something that you need to do it like a spoon, like we did in the study. And they say, Well, where's the spoon? And I say, Oh, it's in the yellow drawer. And they go get it, and they're like, That's good. And then they set it down and don't finish. Then that might tell me, Oh, it's not very meaningful to them. Like they don't care about this volcano. I need to move on to something that matters to them or they don't know what to do with it. They don't even know how to follow the direction. I got to go. Woops. They're not meaningfully using this, this outcome, this consequence. I got to address that.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. It's a lot of work to set up, you know, these things especially in about how and why.

Dr. Lechago: Yes.

Mary: Earlier that where and who were among the easier tests. What about what and which? Which both of them are in my video blog. I always thought what and which were a teeny bit easier than where and who.

Where and Who versus What and Which

Dr. Lechago: Where and who are tougher for sure. Where is okay because that's just a location thing. So that I and that one's pretty easy in terms of I can hide something if there's something that's meaningful to you for any reason and I can make it not there, then that's great. That's all I need. Who so who usually is one of those? We, we sort of linked it to the where. So it was where's the spoon? Oh, you know what? Someone else has it who has it. But there is probably other ways. That's the thing for each, each question type, there is a few ways to contrive that motivation and that's something for people to think about because I urge people when you teach to contrive it under multiple different types of motivation, which we call a sort of multiple exemplar learning like I want to teach under all of these important conditions so that you're not stuck just only doing it under one condition.

Mary: Are you trying to teach what, where, who all at the same time using a volcano or multiple ones. Or are you trying to teach how under multiple activities?

Dr. Lechago: Empirical questions. No, these are great questions. The research literature on this. And here's what's so interesting. This is a ubiquitous skill. There is no denying how important it is. But when you look at the research literature, it's relatively small. When you look at actually the verbal behavior research literature, it's relatively small compared to the ubiquity and importance of the subject matter. One of the reasons is there is not tons of people who are just, you know, with the benefit of being really well trained to do the research. It's not easy. I mean, it's not easy. It's challenging research to do. And I think you're asking great questions. I love the question about should we focus on teaching more than one mand for information at a time? I actually think so. And that's a study that I want to do. I know that recently Joshu Jessel and Einar Ingvarsson just published on What's Missing, Where Is It sequence and both are mands for information. So what's missing? This is missing. Where is it? It's here. Tina Sidener and her coauthors did a really great study where they taught mands for items and then and where I think it was where mands for information using scripted prompts. And so the idea behind that study was so they had three conditions. If they're playing with a child's and their favorite toys, if the child's the control condition is have the child have access to all their stuff so they shouldn't ask for anything at that point. Then you mand for the item. If they see the experimenter playmate has it, it's within view. And if it's out of you in that instance, then teach them to ask Where is X, right? Where is the ball? And so they in this study, the children I think were already able to mand for the items. So the the way they taught it was kind of intermixing both the mand for information, where is the item mand for location and the item itself which I think is really neat because you're establishing a discriminant important sort of discrimination for the learner from the start. And so I think the next lines of study should be evaluating some simpler man's for information or maybe mands for the items and a couple different types of mands for information at the same time to kind of get that discrimination or get them to understand the difference between the questions from the beginning.

Mary: Right. Because otherwise we get scrolling, which is, you know, going through the different responses.

Dr. Lechago: Who has it? Where is it? Who has it? Where is it?

Mary: My son does that, well he can do that.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah.

Mary: And then, you know, it just makes a mess of language so you know, Sarah's here. She's an expert like you. If you get in there and you start getting your prompting for this child to ask, how are you? He's answering the question like, you have to stop now. I have to go back like my son when I was little, you know, we somebody taught him was probably my idea that, you know, somebody sneezes and God bless you. And then if he sneezed, thank you. You're welcome. And then when somebody would sneeze, it was. God bless you. Thank you. You're welcome. Yeah. You have a problem, you know, but if nobody is, like, going, wait, that doesn't make sense. That's an error. We're prompting an error. We need to go back. Is that important? He doesn't. This kid didn't want the information about how I was doing. It would be been a better exchange for me to just say, how are you doing? Have him answer. So really, I'm just a big proponent, like use common sense. Like, you know, it's really important that children and adults ask for things they want and need.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah.

Mary: Answer questions about safety. Answer questions about things they know and care about.

Dr. Lechago: Keep it functional, keep it meaningful.

Games and Manding Practice

Mary: And, you know, interesting, you know, in preparation for this interview today. Well, not in preparation, but I knew the interview was today. I went upstairs and Lucas was with one of his providers, you know, this morning. And I haven't like sat, you know, with them for a while and I haven't seen him play like Go Fish. And he was asking his his person, like, do you have a red? And she was saying yes or no. And, you know, and he was collecting the cards and putting down the right ones. I was like, wow, that's like it's a lot of. So that game playing can result in a lot of questions, too. And I did do an interview a while back, like a couple of years ago actually with Steve Ward, who wrote a great book, Motivation and Game Playing or something like that. But we can link that in the show notes too. He has a really great book that goes step by step How to teach a child to play Go Fish, to play Hot, Cold games, games like that.

Dr. Lechago: Use games to teach. Yeah.

Mary: And as you're talking, I was thinking, well, you know, Lucas had mands for inspiration upstairs today, which kind of surprised me. And it also surprised me that he was able to, like, figure out when it was time to put his cards down and when to turn it over. And there are some pretty good problem solving.

Dr. Lechago: Lucas likes the game. Yeah.

Mary: Yeah so don't forget about games in terms of setting things up.

Dr. Lechago: Oh gosh oh, yeah. I want it to be fun. I mean, this has to be functional and meaningful, right? And so I think people are like when, so I'm a bit of a tough reviewer, all my own work in the work of others. When I'm asked to review mands for inspiration. One of the things I want to see, which is why it's hard to do this research, is how are you proving to me that this is meaningful to the learner? Like this can be very rote, but why do they care about like you taught them to do this? So when presented with this statement or with this visual, they ask, but you know this is under very tied stimulus control, but is this really a true man for information? Like, is the information meaningful? That's why we always talk about when you're at least first teaching, the reinforcer should just be the information, not an item, but at first it should just be the information that leads them to something that's meaningful. Thats why I always talk about linking motivation. But oh yes. I mean, if you look at my study, and the way we set it up, I get to know that child and that family and I want to know everything that's meaningful to that person or not a child. Sometimes we don't work with children. I want to know what's meaningful to you. What do you like? What matters to you? So I have looked, I have learned every card game and every magic trick and every origami. I know how to make a tornado, a volcano, all kinds of stuff.

Mary: Well, if you don't have the Steve Ward book, it is excellent. Okay. And very step by step. When you said the literature is very little in terms of manding for information, are there any speech therapy journals that are studying this or is this just truly a verbal behavior field? Or if, you know.

Dr. Lechago: You know, I'm not going to venture a guess because I don't really know. And so I don't want to speak out of turn. I want to be careful. We do have a great sigs, though. Those speech paths are duly certified speech paths and.

Mary: I've had several SLPs and BCBAs on.

Dr. Lechago: That's awesome. Like Barb?

Mary: And yeah, Rose Griffin and a few others. Yeah. That are dually certified and I am in that sig group.

Dr. Lechago: They probably would know better because it might be that it is addressed in the literature, the speech language pathology literature, but maybe discussed a bit differently, I would venture to guess.

Mary: Right.

Dr. Lechago: But I don't know that's a great question.

Mary: I know the Koegels, I've seen them present and they, they present their early like toddlers, getting them to say what's that? Which is really usually the first manding for information that a toddler would say if they're typically developing, they would be pointing and saying what that you know, and then giving them the information would, oh, that's a banana. And then the child might echo banana. And then that's kind of how they learn everything. But for kids on the spectrum, from my experience, seem to be very, very delayed with manding for information and even manding for items. Um, yeah, I think a lot of my early learner programs, early learner materials and focus over the past couple of years with, with very young children is, is making the shoebox program and potato head and in set puzzles where it's part man because the child wants the part to put in or or do something with it's part tact because they can see it's part echo because I'm using one word time series strategy and things I talk about in my book. So, you know, we need to get manding going and we need to get joint attention, which is really just sitting, attending, manding, tacting, wanting to be there, wanting to engage, wanting to listen and interact. And I think you can get some really great language that way. I did a solo show too, which we can link with the work, a presentation by Dr. Vince Carbon, who we both, you know, have learned so much from just in terms of how not to up the the length of utterance until you get some spontaneous length of utterance, even to word combinations continuously. Because I, I have seen it in the past where this manding for information can really go astray and we can teach like very rote skills that don't make it to really anything valuable. Yeah.

Dr. Lechago: Yeah, it's very easy. And this is where you know, this is where, though, the Mark Sunberg's and the Vince Carbones and myself and a lot of other people have the benefit of uniquely good training, though understanding very well how to set up the situation in the context to get that smooth, flexible, functional responding. And I feel very fortunate to have had that's a very specific trained, you know, skill set. And so I like the idea of just kind of getting people just to think about things a little bit more functionally. But I agree like this, you know, we have a lot to learn, but learning how to think about establishing bids for joint attention, I think, is incredibly important. Making it meaningful for them to recruit you in, to sharing an experience and then just a lot of good multiple exemplar and start showing them manding information in front of them, even if they can't necessarily respond to them. What's that? You know what? It's a ball. What's that? Oh, it's a shoe. I mean, why not? In a inundate with with some good language, under meaningful conditions and under varied conditions. There's a lot of research that still needs to be done with respect to getting that good sort of antecedents before making sure the context and everything is just right to get it smooth and functional versus tight and scripted. Yeah.

Natural Opportunities for Manding

Mary: So Lucas takes his medicine and we, we fill it up. He actually has a book and now he fills up his medicine Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Right. So one of the questions he asks every day, which I'm just thinking about, the questions he does ask is, what day is it, you know, when he goes for his pills and then he needs to know what the day is, then he'll say, what day is it? And somebody will tell him. Or, you know, if we just told him upstairs or whatever, we'll be like, well, do you remember, you know, we've we talked about this or, you know, he does his wash on Wednesdays, so, you know, he'll remember it's Wednesday. And I'm like, how do you know it's Wednesdays? Wash Wednesday, you know, and then that sort of thing. But, you know, there are opportunities to even for kids who don't fluently ask questions, there are opportunities throughout your day to ask questions. And like I like kind of discussing this because I'm thinking, you know, I think he's is more capable than I give him credit for. Like some of this is, is like, oh my gosh, you know. You know, I think.

Dr. Lechago: It's just finding I think one of the things I always tell my students when we work with families is, you know, we we develop a program. We first make sure that it works and we work with the family to teach them how to implement, make sure they feel confident and good. But one of the things that I always have said we always work with is that we do follow ups in the home and then we write as part of the plan, is common scenarios. We talk to parents and say, what goes on in your house? And we write out scenarios where they can continue to practice, because I just I don't think that's intuitive. Most people aren't thinking about how to use everyday situations to create learning opportunities. So we have to help parents see it in their day and then we'll test them. What are some other opportunities? Where else do you think? And then you'll see them. Like, you know, they have to practice this too. Right. And so that becomes really that's a very important part of working with families, is I need you to feel confident. I need you to be able to see this in your life. This isn't just your treatment plan. Like, how does this fit in our life as a family? Yeah. And, yeah, there are lots of opportunities.

Mary: Yeah. So in the at blog, the lesson from the intermediate learner, of course, which I know you watched, I do use primers when I'm there. I mean, that was day one teaching with Jacob and primers like I have something under the cup or I have something in the bag and that is a big old prompt. Right. And then so do you use primers when you teach mands for information?

What is an Autoclitic?

Dr. Lechago: I do a mix of both because I don't want them to become dependent on some...on a statement for someone to engage. So, for example, I think it's okay. I don't think it's kind of like the probably similar to the question when you're teaching mands would say asking what you want versus waiting them for just to tell you they have to be able to respond actually to both. Right. You should be teaching under both conditions is the way I answer that question. Right. They should be able to respond when someone says something. But. And I'm okay with it as long as. That you have that they are meaningfully motivated because I just don't want that primary to be the reason that they ask for it. Or the only reason. So it should I always tell folks, it's like it's just got to work together with your motivational variable. And this is where I talk a lot about. So I started talking about autoclitic frames and I remember the the AE who was handling the paper, it was the 2010 paper on where and who was like, Why are you talking about this? Is it because I'm trained by Dave Palmer and Jack Michael, that's why. But it's not in autoclitics. Is that one operant where people are like, what is...what are you talking about?

Mary: I would venture to bet many, many people don't have any idea what an autoclitic, why don't you tell us quickly.

Dr. Lechago: So the way I talk about it is kind of like in a couple of ways. So I say autoclitics is verbal behavior, about verbal behavior that just gets the person listening to respond even more effectively? Really simple. So all our basic offerants are tact, labeling, mand, requesting, intraverbals, talking about things that aren't there, echoing. So copying what someone says. Those are our are fundamentals. Those are our building blocks. But then the autoclitics are sort of the rest that fills in. It's like it's partly our grammar. So it's because we don't just speak with out autoclitics. We're not just cookie glasses, phone. Right. That's it. We're speaking in the sentence with intention, negation. I'm qualifying things. So all that stuff, those are autoclitics. So when I talk about autoclitic frames, I'm talking about things like that. Where is the? Who has the? And I talk about that because I think it's an important concept to understand when you're contriving or you're helping kind of create motivation to teach, manding for information. And so it kind of gets back to your question do I teach many types of mands for information at once or when I teach one mand for information? Do I teach it like with multiple different things? And so for sure, yes, to that question, especially if you're using a change activity, because I don't want to pull out the volcano and have them go, oh, this is the spoon one.

Mary: Yeah, yeah. That's where you have to be really creative. That's right. I have a lot of tricks up your sleeve.

Dr. Lechago: But here's what's cool. I can hide all kinds of stuff. I don't have to just hide this food now. I can hide the vinegar. I can hide the cups the next time. And then I'll want to use a second or third activity and hide multiple things within that activity so that it doesn't become just okay, this is just about asking volcano related stuff or just about spoon. So yeah, so I'm always thinking about I want to teach under a bunch of different important conditions because here's what I want them to learn and this is where the order autoclitic frame comes in. Let's just go with location. Where is the...? Because that's one of the kind of easier ones to teach. And so you ask where, when something that you need or want is just not accessible to you. It's not there. So what I want is I want to teach under multiple conditions, with multiple people, with lots of different kinds of things missing, because I want the missingness to be the thing that controls or that evokes where's the. And then the thing specific to the situation is the mand, the thing that you plug into that frame. So that's why you had to teach under multiple conditions. I need them to know where is the... it happens when I need something that's not here. And be able to specifically state the things specific to the situation. So I need to create motivation for both. So I asked if they asked, where's the spoon? I had to make sure that the thing is missing and then it's meaningful that that thing is missing, that it's tied to something meaningful for them. Why do they care with spoons missing? They probably don't in general. But take care of it gets them an exploding volcano.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. So as you're saying, all these things, I'm thinking, you know, we've we've run into trouble because I didn't just teach my son. I taught hundreds of kids and teachers how to teach hundreds of kids. And, you know, if you're trying to work on what's in the bag, versus what's in the box, versus what's in a clear baggie, versus what's in a, you know, shopping store plastic bag, the tact for bags and boxes and buckets and bowls. Like you can't have discrimination errors between like it's in a box. But he's saying, what's in the bag? Or it's in a bowl and he's saying, what's in the bag? And then also they're going to say, where's the, you know, vinegar? Well, he knows he needs to know the tact for vinegar. They have the length of utterance that it's not mush coming out of their mouth, like their articulation, their length of utterance. So like there's so many things. And that gets us back to the prerequisites. And, you know, do when you are picking research subjects for your you know, what, where, who studies versus how and why studies do are you looking at VBmapp? Are you looking at length about grades? Are you looking at the tacting ability, manding attention or Yes/No manding, what are? Are there none or what kind of subjects are you looking for?.

Verbal and Learning Skills for Manding Trial Subjects

Dr. Lechago: I know, It depends on the mand for information. So if I'm doing more advanced mands, listen, we're doing how and why studies. They had some of the simpler they had or like where and what. That's fine. That's great. I am looking for a reasonably robust manding repertoire. I want to see something at the higher levels of the mapp or the BLAF and manding for missing items. I do want to know that you can mand for missing items. I have a preference.

Mary: Items, what about actions?

Dr. Lechago: Yeah that is preferred.

Mary: And I also in my experience like prepositions pronouns like oh yes, you have again next to the refrigerator they need. So it's like if this really is a skill for in my opinion, level three, VBmapp learners that are like 50 lessons into language for learning. I have whole lessons on language for learning on my intermediate learner course, a whole lesson on prepositions, on pronouns, echoics, length of utterance. I mean, these are not that they're standard prerequisites, like you can't be in the study.

Dr. Lechago: But yes.

Mary: It's hard enough to do the study if you have a child that's not even manding for missing items.

Dr. Lechago: Right. Yeah, I know. I do want a learner who's manding for missing items because it feels to me just inappropriate to target manding for information, if you can't if you can't just directly man for actions, items, activities in the absence of them, I feel like let's just let's let's address that first. Like I said earlier, yes, you need to be able to respond effectively as a listener. So when I say it's in the next room, in the yellow drawer, there's a lot you have to be able to do. Probably there's some joint control, yellow drawer, yellow drawer, yellow drawer that gets you successfully to the yellow drawer in that means that you're opening and looking in, you know what yellow is, right? So there are some mands when you look at some of the studies. So I know that in our Einar Ingvarsson and I forgot I feel terrible because I forgot who his coauthor was. But I don't know. Please tell me. And I think he's a speech generating device. So it's about teaching tacts. And so they would use tacts that they knew as a abolishing operation or the control condition. You always want that when you teach or do research. That's just to make sure that they're not asking when they shouldn't be. Right. And if they're asking in those conditions, you got to go back to the drawing board. Oh, some the wrong thing. So that's good. That's why you want that in there. And then they had things that they knew they couldn't tact or label as that opportunity to teach them to to to say, I don't know that say what is it say I don't know, please tell me. And so then what they also monitored was the acquisition of the tact and the mand for information. So they got this beautiful increase in the mand for information and then they got an increase in the tact and a decrease in the mand for information, which is exactly what you should see, because you they should be using that information. In that case, the learner doesn't necessarily need to know preposition or directions or anything like that. They just need to be able to kind of effectively respond to when someone asks, what is it? Right tacting.

Mary: However, if the child doesn't learn in 1 to 3 trials, that can become road two. And, you know, a child constantly say, I don't know, please tell me. And then they're not able to pick it up quickly. And then you're, you're. Yeah.

Dr. Lechago: If you're not picking it up. Yeah. I'd have to figure out why I write the analysis. I have to do an analysis on why there's failure to acquire. And there's a lot of reasons why. Right. Is it procedural or is it a skills deficit? Is there something you just don't have that I'm missing here? Are you not scanning? Are you right or is it motivational like the outcome for you tacting is really not that interesting for you.

Mary: Yeah. Motivation is everything and. Oh yeah. And then we are not even talking about problem behaviors and attention, all of that stuff. But it is a very complex topic. But I think you've given us some food for thought, you know, so if you're a parent or for the parents or professionals that are listening, what's like two or three things that they can do now just to become more aware of managing for information. And besides looking at the show notes at MaryBarbera.com/182 and looking at some of these articles but what can they do every day to to kind of move forward with potentially now or in the future teaching manding for information.

What to know before teaching Manding for Information

Dr. Lechago: Yeah well first as we've discussed, you know, is your child ready? So can they ask for things just items that they want that are present or not present? That's first. If they're still, if they're still learning, is that is that still on acquisition? Keep going with that. I would even encourage teaching them a frame around just manding for things I want. Whatever the item is, frames do promote variability and mands for information require frames. Okay where is that?

Mary: Now I do want to add here because I am like I am very not into teaching carrier phrases too early and I can put a blog I wrote on it in the show notes as well because from my experience, we want to get, you know, two words like, I'd rather have, you know, kickball or yellow candy or some sure. Qualifying we go with I want or that's because that can become so rote and sure. So not to interrupt you because like what you're saying is, especially when you get to manding for information and using those autoclitic frames which are kind of like carrier phrases.

Dr. Lechago: That's what the frame is, right? It helps the listener understand better what the speaker needs. And I am not a fan of teaching just the frame in the absence of the item at first. Yeah. So I'm not a fan of where, how, why.

Mary: Oh no, no. You have to do the whole thing.

Dr. Lechago: People do it. And here's why. And that's why I always say it's an order clinic. It relates to something else. Yes. The more problem all over again now. Sure. If as a listener. Right. I'm there and I can bear witness to your struggle and I know what you need, I can answer. But if I don't know, if I not sort of seeing what the struggle is, then if you say where or how I say where or how, what.

Mary: Rhymes with answering questions about prepositions. Under... Under what? Because right above the floor, you're under the...

Dr. Lechago: Really those are autoclitics. It relates to something else.

Mary: It's really important. So we start with mands.

Dr. Lechago: Start with following Instructions at least one step instructions. Because if I tell you, if I give you information, they need to be able to respond to that information effectively. It has to to work, make that information tired to something meaningful and fun for the learner. Right? So if I'm teaching you how to ask for your spoon, maybe it's to build a volcano. If they like that, maybe it's to to eat their favorite ice cream or to eat their cereal in the morning. There's a lot of ways you can you can intersperse that throughout your daily routine. Right? Breakfast is a great time to withhold the utensils. They're nice and hungry. They're ready to eat. You know, there's just so much that you can you can do throughout the day. I always start out with things that are just really, really fun for them and sabotage the situation. I like to start with make sure that you're using the frame plus the items, you know, frames in isolation, know how or where, but where is the... make sure that you're practicing with a variety of activities or items and not just using one or doing it in one space with one person. So remember, for example, if you're going to start with Manning for the location of an item, you want them to have lots of experience asking for lots of the location, for lots of different items, for lots of different reasons. Right. And what that's going to do is going to help them learn. When I need something that's not there, that's when the where is that comes into play. Yeah. Right. Yeah. And make sure it's tied to something that's meaningful to them. It gets them to something that they enjoy and then just have fun with it. Yeah. So don't get severe or really scary. So make sure I tell my students, you know, teaching trials should be fun and interesting and for our learners. Right.

Mary: And then in the natural environment, you know, you don't have to build like volcanoes every day. But in the natural environment, especially for parents, just sabotage the routine. Like if you normally turn off the light, turn off the TV before you go upstairs, leave the light on and start to go upstairs, you know, have the child notice, like wait or okay, let's make dinner. And then I just sit there and then Lucas is like, get up...

Dr. Lechago: Okay, what are you doing, Mom? Yeah.

Mary: Just try to sabotage some of your routines and that'll begin to at least get the motivation of the child you want to stick.

Dr. Lechago: If they play on a laptop are great, how is and you have the computer or the laptop on for them. Turn it off. Unplug it. And then. Oh, you know what? It's off. It's time to turn it on. And that's a great opportunity. They give you the look. And that's the time to say, how do I turn it on? And then they then they repeat it and you go, great, let me show you. Press that button. Yeah. And you can create all kinds of situations. And then I always tell folks, make sure that they're using the information. Right. It has to be meaningful. So if you're teaching them to ask, what is that? After a while, if you ask them what that is, they should be able to tell you because you've told them, right? If you tell them where to find something that they need, are they going and getting it? And then are they using it right. So make sure making sure that it's functional, they're using that information. Yeah. And that they're motivated by it.

Mary: And I think this is great. We can put some of these studies that you have done in the show notes. And before I let you go, this is filled with information. So I'm happy that we covered this topic. It's something we don't usually cover such intermediate topics, but I think this is an excellent one to cover. So before I let you go, part of my podcast goals are not to just help the kids, but help the parents and professionals be less stressed and happier lives. So do you have any self-care or stress management tips for us?

Dr. Lechago: Oh, my gosh. You know, it's interesting. One of the things that I heard a while ago and I think it's such a good idea, it's a little it's maybe a little cliché, but someone said self-care isn't kind of getting to the point where you feel so broken that you have to take do something to take a break from your life, but rather, what is it that you're doing every day to making sure that you feel kind of that your stress is managed, that you feel good about your choices so that you're not going to the point of sort of falling to pieces and then take a bubble bath. Bubble baths are great or vacations are fantastic. But, you know, I tell parents, you know, enjoy, enjoy the process of teaching. And if you flub something up, don't beat yourself up over it. It's okay. I tell this to parents, it's okay to make a mistake. You have this information, you have your caregivers or your therapist to talk to you. You need help. Don't stress out. Don't beat yourself up over it. You're going to get back on track and everything's going to be just fine. And then I'll say I make mistakes and really, yes, everybody makes mistakes. So I think one of the things I kind of give my parents permission, like, it's okay. You're doing the best you can. And if there's a day where you just can't fit it in because it's the day is just too hard, either you don't feel that good, you have too much on your plate, you're turning around. It's really okay. Then don't. Then take the day off. You both can use the day off. Yeah, it's all right. And I think when I tell it to my parents, you're like, Oh, okay, thank you. So give yourself a break. There's days where you just can't get to it. It's just fine.

Mary: Oh it's I think that's great advice for all of us. So thank you so much for joining us on this. So how do people like follow your work? Do you have a website or do.

Dr. Lechago: I need to be better about this? I'm not a technophile, so I don't really have a website.

Mary: Do you have like LinkedIn or you're on Facebook?

Dr. Lechago: I'm on LinkedIn and you can find me on Facebook. Okay. I don't use it for strictly professional purposes, but you can certainly find me there. And I do. I am on LinkedIn and people can also just email me with questions or requests for resources as well.

Mary: Okay. Well, that's very generous. We can put their email in the show notes as well. So thank you so much, Sarah.

Dr. Lechago: Thank you for inviting me.

Mary: Thank you for taking the time. Alright, have a good one.

Dr. Lechago: Bye bye.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at MaryBarbera.com/workshop where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism. And you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to MaryBarbera.com/workshop for all the details. I hope to see you there.