The words we use in autism services can be a challenge for those who don’t know what they mean. There’s a lot to learn about everything from what “the Spectrum” means to what reinforcement is. Here’s a handy glossary of key terms and what they mean.


Autism exists on a spectrum, which means that people on the spectrum have a wide range of symptoms and severity. Autism spectrum disorder or ASD includes conditions that were previously considered to be separate — autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and more. The degree to which each person with autism experiences things around them and the amount of support they need, will vary. This is sometimes influenced by whether the person on the autism spectrum has any other health conditions. It is also influenced by the world in which they live and the services they receive. It all means that, while there are commonalities, children with autism are not all the same and services have to be tailored to each child’s individual needs.


Within Applied Behaviour Analysis you may hear certain terms that don’t always make sense to you. One of those terms is “Manding”. Manding refers to a person making a request for something they desire. It could be an item, an activity or the removal of something the person doesn’t like. Manding is one of the beginning steps to developing language. Mand training is an essential for clients with minimal and delayed verbal language.

Natural Environment Teaching

Natural Environment Training refers to developing new skills or generalizing previously learned skills in a play based environment that does not involve “table work” or more traditional learning settings. For example, we may teach a child to request for items they want at the park rather than in a classroom.

The Four Functions Of Behaviour

All human behaviours can be classified into 4 categories. Escape Motivated, Attention Seeking, Tangible Motivated and Sensory Based behaviours. You can use this knowledge of behaviour and related strategies to help minimize challenging behaviour and encourage more positive behaviours.


Reinforcement is the act of providing someone with something they desire.  By giving someone an item they are motivated to receive you can encourage them or discourage them from acting in a certain manner.  For example, if a child is given something they love after they complete their homework they will be more motivated to complete their homework the next night.  Alternatively, if someone receives reinforcement for acting inappropriately they will be more likely to act that way again.

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