Lesson 5 Behavioral Classification of Language


Lesson 5 consists of the behavioral classification of language and proposed by Skinner.  It speaks to the "why", or pragmatic aspect of communication which is most often the breakdown in children with autism.


Mand- Loosly referred to as Requesting - Asking for something. A “pure mand” occurs purely as a result of the MO or desire to have the item rather than having to be asked, “What do you want?”. Ex: Can I have a cookie? Where’s mommy? I want water. The mand is the first operant we teach because it teaches the child the power of communication and it can replace many other maladaptive behaviors.


Tact - Labeling/naming an item, action or property of an item that is PRESENT or something with which the individual comes into contact. A “pure tact” does not relate to having an EO or desire for the item. Ex: Comments: Look at the bird! Answering questions: What’s this called? (Child names item) How does the dog feel? (Child touches it and says “soft)), What do you see? (Child says “A bird flying in the sky.) This feels soft! (tacting a property of an item). Spontaneous tacts (comments) typically have an element of the mand (joint control) in them. In other words, children label items or elements partially to get the attention of the adults around them.


Intraverbal - What one person says is based on what another person says (not in contact with the item, action or property) but does not match it exactly. (Not imitation or echoic) Ex: Twinkle, Twinkle, little ... (child says, “star”). What says “Choo Choo”? (Child says train) What’s your name? (Child says their name). What did you do at school today? (Child says, I painted a picture!)

Receptive - Following directions or complying with requests of others.

While not a specific operant, it is important to teach receptives as part of langauge traning. Receptive - Following directions or complying with requests of others. Ex: Find Cookie Monster. (Child touches). Please put your plate in the trash. (Child complies) What says Choo Choo? (Child touches train).

Features, Functions and Classes (FFC training)

FFCs - These letters refer to “feature”, “function”, and “class”. Once a child is able to ask for, identify and label items in their environment, FFCs are taught so the child can learn associations or “intraverbal connections” between the words. Features are parts of items and descriptions of items, functions are the actions that typically go with the items or what one does with the items and classes are the group(s) the items can belong to. Receptive, tact, and intraverbal responses are all taught so the child can learn to answer questions and talk about things when they are not present. EX: Banana - Features: yellow, peel, long, Function: eat it, peel it, Class: food, things we eat, fruits. During the initial phase of teaching, the child’s response is to touch, name or respond with the item name when the FFC is said. After approximately 30 different items have been taught, the reversal is then taught allowing the learner to define and describe things.

Operants Used in Conversations

Conversations are typically a combination of mands, tacts and intraverbals with occasional receptive responses.


Sam- Hi! How are you! (mand)

Fred- I’m OK but I’ve been pretty busy! (intraverbal/tact) I feel like I’m ready for a vacation! (tact) How about you? (mand)

Sam- Actually, I just got back from vacation! (Intraverbal). I’m ready to get back to work again! (tact) Fred- Really! (intraverbal) Where’d you go? (mand)

Sam-We went to the beach for the week. (intraverbal) Do you want to see my pictures? (mand)

Fred- Sure! (intraverbal) Sam- Hand me that bag over there. (mand - Sam, receptive -Fred) It has my pictures in it. (tact)

Sam- This is the house we stayed in. (tact) And here’s one of the kids burying me in the sand. (tact) Fred- Did you like the house you stayed in? (mand)

Sam- Yea! (intraverbal) It was great! (intraverbal) Fred- Could I get the number of the agent? (mand) I’d like to stay there too! (tact) Write it on this paper for me please. (Mand - Fred, Receptive - Sam).

 Tracy Vail,MS,CCC/SLP

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