Training children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to communicate

Training Children Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder To Communicate

Training children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to communicate

Training children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to communicate is one of the most important goals in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder and helping them develop communication skills in daily life. Therefore, when there are no linguistic skills to communicate, there may not be effective language skills to communicate and express their wants and needs with others. Therefore, children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may adopt unwanted behaviors such as aggressive behaviors or self-harm behaviors as an alternative to communicating with others. These unwanted behaviors may not only be an expression of communication and are often incomprehensible to others.

Functional Communication Training (FCT)

Functional communication training (FCT) is one of the most effective strategies in training children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to communicate. Therefore, functional communication training may include teaching a child with autism spectrum disorder ways to convey information using language, signs, gestures, and images to achieve the desired goals.

Functional communication is called “functional” because it not only teaches children to name items (i.e. associating the color red with the image of an apple), but it focuses on using words and signs to obtain the desired thing, such as requesting (food, toys, activities).

Functional communication training involves using positive reinforcement to teach children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder language, effective communication with others, and the ability to express themselves to meet their various needs.

How to use functional communication training with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

Psychologist Stephanie Lee explains how a CBA works and applies Functional Communication Training (FCT). By starting by identifying and evaluating the child’s favorites and using reinforcers in the form of pictures that represent the desired reinforcer, Therefore, if the child loves some of the cartoon characters or some of his favorite foods such as “chocolate,” this item is used through pictures, and then we teach the child the picture that represents the desired item.

in the beginning, The “error-free learning” strategy must be used, whereby the certified behavior analyst teaches the child the picture that represents the required item and then obtains the reward and then repeats this strategy every time we obtain the required responses from the child until the indoctrination fades until the child can To succeed independently when communicating with others, Once the child uses the word, sign, or picture when the desired item is present.

In the next step, The CBA must “generalize” beyond the specific situations in which the required elements have been taught.

Example, If a child is watching television and wants to eat “chips,” the child may use the word as a way to obtain the desired item, “chips,” while using reinforcement when this skill appears. After using these words or pictures continuously, it is possible to add some new words to gradually build the child’s stock.

Once the child learns to communicate through the images or words he uses, the people around him must receive them so that the child can obtain the desired item.

Objectives of Functional Communication Training (FCT)

How quickly children progress with functional communication training often depends on their functional performance or cognitive level. For children who have more complex needs or severe language impairment, The needs are often greater for training in functional communication using words or pictures. Therefore, the child may have a small reserve, but when training in functional communication, these may be some of the images or words he needs most in daily life.

Some children will be able to speak in full sentences using some assistive technology and other children may only acquire individual words so appropriate goals and needs must be set for each child that match their individual abilities.

Parents have an important role in promoting training and practicing what the child has learned by using it in everyday life situations. Also, when implementing functional communication training in school, teachers should help children practice the learned words.

Functional communication training (FCT) and undesirable behaviors

Occupational communication training has been developed since the 1980s as a way to reduce unwanted behaviors including aggressive and self-injurious behaviors. The idea was that these behaviors resulted from the child’s inability to express and communicate needs effectively.

Therefore, training in functional communication to reduce problem behaviors, The starting point is to look at the functions of behavior and functional assessment of behavior usually requires careful observation and monitoring of the child.

If the child hits his head on the wall, or hit himself, or hits another child, What is the function of this behavior??

Accessing the functions of behavior requires looking at the components of behavior, which are the antecedents of behavior. And the behavior itself, And behavioral results by asking some of the following questions:

  • What happened before the behavior occurred?
  • When does this behavior occur?
  • With whom does this behavior occur?
  • What happened after the behavior occurred?

Therefore, training the child in functional communication and teaching him ways to communicate his needs can work to extinguish these behaviors because it is possible for the child to use these unwanted behaviors as a way to communicate with others.

Replacing self-harm behaviors with language

The behaviors that children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders use to self-harm usually fall under one of these functions:

  • To be noticed
  • Get something tangible
  • Escape
  • Self-reinforcement

Therefore, when head-banging behavior leads to attention, to get something the child wants, or to escape from the tasks presented to him, These behaviors may be accidentally reinforced and functional communication training can help change these unwanted behavioral patterns.

Therefore, once children diagnosed with ASD learn to communicate using images or words to request, the child is more likely to choose appropriate behavior rather than inappropriate and self-harming behavior.
Therefore, functional communication training can be applied to all ages. But it is important that training in functional communication be applied at an early age because what we know about language development is that the earlier the intervention, the better the results. Therefore, early intervention must be done in building and developing the child’s repertoire for greater communication and working on training in functional communication.


Helping Children With Autism Learn to Communicate – Child Mind Institute