Language

Critical Communication Skills

Whether your child’s at home, daycare, or school, there are 9 critical communication skills needed to function independently. These communication skills work whether your child’s talking or using an alternative communication systems like PECS. This is awesome! Because isn’t that the whole goal, to help our kids be as independent as possible?

Every child has the right to communicate as independently as possible. Click To Tweet

The nine skills needed to communicate independently are:

  1. Request Reinforcers
  2. Request Assistance
  3. Rejection
  4. Affirmation
  5. Request a Break
  6. Request to Wait
  7. Follow Directions
  8. Transition Between Activities
  9. Follow a Schedule

Probably not what you were expecting… When I was introduced to this list of skills, I thought they’d be things like appropriately accessing attention and eye contact. But when you think of a child that has needs and preferences, it makes sense. I’d prefer first knowing what the child needs before I expect social communication skills like eye contact.

Think of it in context of the well-known and frequently inconvenient: “I gotta go potty” situation. If your child needs to go to the bathroom, would you prefer for them to communicate that to you without any eye contact or would you rather that they get your attention and look at you but have no way of indicating that they need to go to the bathroom? You gotta start with foundational communication and that’s first learning how to communicate the need.

When I work with children, I find that it’s pretty easy to start with the skill of requesting reinforcers. During the therapy session, the child just gets to communicate which toys, books, and games they want to play with. It’s pretty motivating for the child because the effort they put into communicating is immediately reinforced by receiving the item they want!

I’ve noticed that (besides the iPad) there are a few of my toys that my all my students looooove. Most of these toys are pretty simple like a koosh/squishy ball or a plastic tree that has spots to put plastic animals in it. The animal tree seems almost too simple but 90% of my students love it. (BTW, I don’t have any affiliate links in this post and don’t receive any sponsorship or commission on these items I’m mentioning.) Finding out what is reinforcing to the child is the trick teaching how to request reinforcers. If something isn’t exciting or desirable, it makes sense that it wouldn’t be motivating to ask for.

I’d go more into detail for all of the other critical communication skills but that would make this post waaaay too long and besides you’ve gotta start with the basics like requesting reinforcers.

While you work to teach these communication skills, don’t forget to continue using naturalistc ways to continue developing language or using fun strategies to explicitly teach vocabulary.

What are your child’s favorite toys and how do you teach these critical communication skills??

Thanks for reading and share some of your input!

Resources

https://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Special-Education-Services/Documents/IDEAS%202013%20Handouts%203/Critical%20Communication%20Skills%20PECS%20(1).pdf

Image Courtesy of ookapic / Pixabay

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