Functional Communication

Keep it Functional, Functional, Functional

  • Encourage the individual to use the new or revised communication system for expressive communication.
    • Remember, matching objects to pictures and picture identification tasks focus on receptive skills.
    • No need to wait until receptive language is mastered to begin teaching expressive language skills.
    • Teaching expressive skills can teach and reinforce new receptive language skills at the same time.
  • Encourage use of the communication system during as many daily activities as possible.
  • Teach new symbols during functional, everyday routines and activities. Use a multimodality approach. That is, the communication system may include many ways of communicating: gestures, signs, a communication board, and a high-tech communication device.
  • Choose a system or device that can be easily accessed by delivering a picture or object to another person, pushing/touching a symbol with a finger, accessing a message with a switch, or pointing to a message using eye gaze.
  • Choose a system or device that can be easily accessed by a body part, a switch, or with eye gaze.
  • Layout communication boards or program communication devices with single words for each symbol when possible. This way, words can be combined to create many unique messages and literacy skills are reinforced.
  • If a single-message voice output device is recommended, consider providing two of them.
    • Remember, providing one single-message output devices may only teach the individual to push what is placed in front of him or her. Two single-message voice output devices provide motivating and powerful choice-making opportunities.
  • Many of the most commonly spoken words in English are represented with an abstract symbol, but many people can learn an abstract symbol by seeing it used in a functional manner and in context.
  • Many people can learn to “sight read” a word by seeing the printed word repeatedly in context. You may want to make the photo or graphic large at first and the text small, but over time, make the picture progressively smaller and the text progressively bigger.
  • If you think you need to remove recreational activities from a speech device because the individual goes to the recreation items at inappropriate times, try creating an “inhibitor page.” Read more about inhibitor pages at:

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