• autism;
  • functional analysis;
  • observational learning;
  • verbal behavior;
  • video modeling

Previous research suggests that language-training procedures for children with autism might be enhanced following an assessment of conditions that evoke emerging verbal behavior. The present investigation examined a methodology to teach recognizable mands based on environmental variables known to evoke participants' idiosyncratic communicative responses in the natural environment. An alternating treatments design was used during Experiment 1 to identify the variables that were functionally related to gestures emitted by 4 children with autism. Results showed that gestures functioned as requests for attention for 1 participant and as requests for assistance to obtain a preferred item or event for 3 participants. Video modeling was used during Experiment 2 to compare mand acquisition when video sequences were either related or unrelated to the results of the functional analysis. An alternating treatments within multiple probe design showed that participants repeatedly acquired mands during the function-based condition but not during the nonfunction-based condition. In addition, generalization of the response was observed during the former but not the latter condition.