Helping Children with Autism Learn to Communicate

There are many ways that someone can communicate to others, such as language, signing, and using pictures. For some children on the Autism Spectrum, it is hard to communicate their wants and needs especially when they do not know how to express them to others. This can result in tantrum-like behavior or aggressive behavior as a replacement. The tantrum-like behavior or aggressive behavior can look different for each child, such as hitting, biting, kicking, throwing objects, or headbanging. These behaviors can conclude in aggressive behavior towards others or themselves because they are trying to communicate with others but do not know how to do so. If the child aggresses toward another person or themself it could become harmful and still does not address what that child wants or needs. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is one of the most effective Autism Spectrum therapies that can help with building communication skills. A child’s ABA therapy team will observe a child’s behaviors as well as speak with the child’s parents and teachers to conduct a functional assessment. Once the functional assessment is completed, the child’s ABA therapists can start functional communication training.

What is Functional Communication Training?

Functional communication training is when an ABA therapist provides positive reinforcement to the child to teach him or her communication skills. A child’s ABA therapist will help the child by providing the correct language for the child to express his or her needs. The child will not only learn to label items but to also ask for items when he or she needs them and may progress to saying full sentences to communicate to others. The child will also learn how to communicate with others socially. The ABA therapist will start with errorless learning and positive reinforcement. Functional communication training will be conducted in steps by first using full verbal prompts, then using only partial verbal prompts to finally no prompts at all. The ABA therapist will prompt the child with verbal language and/or pictures. Over time, the prompts by the ABA therapist will fade out as the child begins to use language, sign, or use pictures to express what his or her needs are. This can be taught for the child to use one word and progress to whole sentences. Then the Autism Spectrum therapist will start to generalize the skills with the child under different situations. This will help the child continue to communicate his or her needs with others using language rather than aggressive behaviors in different environments.

What are the goals of Functional Communication Training?

It is important to remember that each child will have different developmental skills and goals that his or her teacher, ABAtherapist, and Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) are considering. Each child may go at different paces to work towards their goals. The main goal for functional communication training is simply to create functional communication for the child to express his or her needs to others as well as social communication with others. It can be very frustrating for the child and ones around them to not be able to communicate or understand what that person needs. As a result of the frustration, tantrum-like behaviors can occur. To handle tantrum-like behaviors, prevention is key. Functional communication training will provide the child with the proper language, sign, or picture to communicate his or her needs and wants to others, thus avoiding the need to escalate to tantrum-like behaviors.

Who can do Functional Communication Training with the child?

Typically, functional communication training is done during the child’s one-to-one ABA therapy session. But it is encouraged that the parents and/ or guardian, as well as other family members, also practice functional communication with the child outside of therapy as well. It is important to remember that consistency is key when learning a new skill or language. Giving the child positive reinforcement for using language at different places and under different situations can help improve the child’s language skills outside of therapy and school. Acknowledging that the child is trying to communicate through some type of language such as verbal, sign or picture creates an understanding environment for the child. Having other family members reinforce the child’s language skills in numerous locations will help the child in the future.

Meet the Experienced ABA Therapists at Capable Cubs ABA Therapy Center in Bergen County

At Capable Cubs, we believe that selecting an ABA therapy center near you is an incredibly critical decision with lasting consequences. As a leading ABA services provider in Bergen County, we encourage parents to always ask questions and evaluate our services and therapists without any hesitation.

Our team of highly trained ABA clinicians includes experienced and qualified BCBAs and RBTs who specialize in combining various ABA methods for providing the most effective treatment to your child with ASD. We create a structured roadmap for every child, including extensive initial assessments, comprehensive ABA treatment plans, critical learning milestones, and effective discharge plans to successfully transition out of our care. Our goal is to help your child build the skills needed to increase independence, build meaningful relationships, and connect with their community.

Select an ABA therapy center that works best for your family’s priorities, needs, and goals. Get in touch with the Autism specialists at Capable Cubs. Call 201-786-6280 or contact us online to learn more about our quick intake process.