Teaching Your Child to Make Independent Requests

January 10, 2013 6:58 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

If your child echoes what you say, but does not independently ask for things, you can use a fairly simple procedure to make your child’s vocalizations more functional.

Updated September 1, 2022

The most important function of communication for your child is the “mand” or the ability to request items and activities. Therefore, the first aspect of communication that should be taught is requesting. If your child already echoes (you say “cat” and then your child says “cat”), then you can use the echoic-to-mand transfer procedure to turn your child’s echoic responses into functional requests.

Echoic-to-mand transfer procedure

  1. Begin teaching with the item present (the child’s favorite drink is out on the table)
  2. Make sure that your child REALLY WANTS the item or activity by:
  • Putting it within their reach and watching to see if they will take it.
  • Watching to see if they make signs or gestures to get the item.
  1. Use an echoic prompt – say the specific name of the item or activity (you say “juice” while holding up the cup of juice).
  • If your child echoes (vocally imitates) the name of the item or activity, deliver the item or activity while saying the name again.
  1. Fade echoic prompts as soon as possible:
  • After using echoic prompts several times, try using only a partial prompt – only saying the first part of the word (while holding up the juice, say “j” instead of juice).
    • If your child says the name of the item, repeat the word and deliver it immediately.
    • If your child does not say the name of the item after the partial prompt, prompt by saying the full name of the item and use the error-correction procedure listed below.
  • After several successful partially prompted requests (procedure above), try to wait up to 3 seconds to see if your child will say the name of the item independently.
    • If your child says the name of the item during the 3 second pause, repeat the name of the item and deliver it immediately. If your child says the name of the item without a prompt, deliver a larger quantity/amount of the item or activity.
    • If your child does not say the name of the item when waiting up to 3 seconds, try saying the first part of the word. If this does not work, say the entire word.
  1. Error-correction procedure (if your child does not say the word or says the wrong thing):
  • Never deliver the reinforcing item or activity after your child mistakenly says the name of a different item or activity, even if your child self-corrects.
  • Wait 3 seconds, then say the correct name of the reinforcing item or activity, once your child echoes the name, deliver the item/activity while saying the name again.


  • Always try to teach the name of the specific item or activity (teach “water,” “juice,” and “milk” instead of “drink”).
  • DO NOT teach “Yes,” “No,” “More,” “Help,” or any other general requests until your child has 200-300 different requests.

For more tips or to inquire about getting your child a comprehensive behavior assessment of language, please contact Behavioral Consulting of Tampa Bay at info@bcotb.com.

Check out our other blog posts on Teaching Self-Help Skills and How to Prioritize ABA Therapy Goals!

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**BCOTB has been Tampa’s leading provider of pediatric ABA therapy since 2003. With four clinic locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, we know that our clinic is the right spot for your early learner! BCOTB focuses on in-clinic early intervention for children from birth to ten years old. BCOTB accepts most major insurances, including, but not limited to: Aetna, Anthem, Baycare, Beacon, BCBS, Cigna, CMS, Florida Blue, Humana, MHNet, Meritain Health, Magella Health, UnitedHealthcare, and TRICARE.**

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