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Intermediate Requesting

When I want something, I have a whole dictionary of words to rely on to get my needs met. I can use verbs and nouns, as well as core and fringe words. Instead of just asking for “more”, I can ask for “more cheese” on my pasta, or “more mozzarella” (or parmesan). I like my pasta, and I like my cheese, so knowing how to build up to a request such as “I want more Parmigiano-Reggiano flakes on my pasta” is important to me.

What is Intermediate Requesting?

Beginner requesting is characterized by a lot of non-verbal communication or simple 1-word mands. Intermediate requesting will expand a learner’s repertoire and strengthen communication skills, as well as help prepare for conversation and social skills.

When thinking about communication most people immediately think of spoken or vocal communication. Intermediate requesting can also be achieved through other means such as AAC.

How to Expand Requests

Model. Modeling language at every stage of a learner’s development is vital. For babies and infants, parents model language through words, sounds, and babbling. This modeling of language is how children learn – this never stops, no matter their age or communication level.

For beginner requesting, if a learner is using gestures, you can provide the 1-word label for the item. For intermediate requesting we want to expand the vocabulary starting at the learner’s level. If a learner is requesting with 1-word phrases, we would add on 1 more word to the phrase.

Arts and crafts activity, learner requests “crayon”
Instructor models “purple crayon” and hands the crayon to the learner

Learner requests “cheese”
Instructor models “more cheese” and adds more cheese

If someone is using 2-word phrases, we would again meet the learner where they are at and gradually build their vocabulary by adding 1 more word to the phrase.

Arts and crafts activity, learner requests “purple crayon”
Instructor models “want purple crayon” and hands the crayon to the learner

Learner requests “more cheese”
Instructor models “want more cheese” and adds more cheese

Following this pattern, you can see how language acquisition can grow. When a learner has a variety of nouns and verbs in their repertoire, we see combinations of requests emerging beyond the specific teaching scenario.

Remember to make this fun! Practice requesting in activities that are preferred for the learner.

Types of Vocabulary

Many people are aware of the differences between a noun (person, place, thing) and a verb (action, experience). Not everyone is as familiar with core versus fringe vocabulary.

Core vocabulary consists of words like: yes, no, more, up, go, help, open, etc. and make up about 80% of verbal language. Even with this short list of core vocabulary you can get a sense of how a learner can use these words to communicate their needs. Teaching core vocabulary is important for beginner requesting as it is applicable across many contexts (requesting “more” can meet their needs for more food, more drink, more tickles, more bubbles, etc.).

Now that a learner is ready for intermediate requesting, we want to include more fringe vocabulary. Fringe vocabulary includes low-frequency words which make up the minority of verbal language, and are specific to the speaker. Fringe vocabulary also is more concrete (core is more abstract) in that you can picture the item you are saying. Examples of fringe vocabulary include: goldfish crackers, cars, orange juice, swing, blanket, etc.

As a speaker is preparing to expand their vocabulary, the introduction of fringe vocabulary helps to meet their specific needs. In ABA we use the term manding for requesting, as this is one of the first ways a speaker learns to interact with a listener – they can demand, command, and countermand.

ABA Programs for Intermediate Requesting

Some examples of appropriate ABA programs for intermediate requesting include:

For an item with a phraseI want crayon
For helpHelp open
For others to perform an actionBlow bubbles
For attentionLook at me

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