- A Brief Explanation of Discrete Trial Training
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome Who Present Behavioral Challenges
- Applied Behavior Analysis: A Focus on Outcomes
- A Challenge to Reframe our Thinking About Behavior
- Concerning Consequences: What Do I Do When...?
- Consequences, Behavior, and My Birds
- Don't Forget About Self Management
- Ever Had a Crisis Kind of Day?
- Movement Difference: A Closer Look at the Possibilities
- Movement Differences Among Some People with Autism: an Impetus to Re-Examine Behavioral Issues
- Observing Behavior Using A-B-C Data
- Positive Behavior Supports Creating Meaningful Life Options for People with ASD
- Ten Steps Towards Supporting Appropriate Behavior
- The Challenge of Combining Competing Input in the Classroom
- "Your Attitude Just Might Be My Biggest Barrier"
- Applied Behavior Analysis: The Role of Task Analysis and Chaining
- Tips for Choosing a Provider for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- What to Consider When Looking for a Qualified ABA Provider
- “If They Could Only Tell Me What They Are Thinking.” The Need for Augmentative Communication for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Assessment Day: Questions About the Communication Development of Your Young Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Aiding Comprehension of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders During One-on-One Interactions
- Can Social Pragmatic Skills Be Tested?
- Comprehension of the Message: Important Considerations for Following Directions
- First Steps and the Journey to a Diagnosis of ASD for a Child under Three
- Functional Categories of Delayed Echolalia
- Functional Categories of Immediate Echolalia
- Initial Guidelines for Developing a Communication Intervention Plan for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Significant Limitations in Communication Ability
- Long and Short Term Strategies for Reducing Specific Repetitive Questions
- Successfully Using PECS with Children with ASD
- Meeting the Challenge of Social Pragmatics with Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Opportunity to Communicate: A Crucial Aspect of Fostering Communication Development
- Reading with Your School-Age Child: Building Vocabulary One Word at a Time
- Social Communication and Language Characteristics Associated with High Functioning, Verbal Children and Adults with ASD
- The 21st Century Speech Language Pathologist and Integrated Services in Classrooms
- The High Functioning Person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A "Tourist" in His Native Country
- The Role of the School Speech Language Pathologist and the Student with Autism
- Using a Visual Support to Enhance WH Question
- Visual Resources for Enhancing Communication for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities
- Visual Schedules and Choice Boards: Avoid Misinterpretation of their Primary Functions
- Visual Supports: Sources for Symbols for Receptive and Expressive Communication
- What is the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS?
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- PICO - A Decision Making Tool For Selecting Apps
- Helping Your Child to Develop Communication Skills
- Evidence-Based Practices for Effective Communication and Social Intervention
- Important Predictors
- The Use of Technology in Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Collaborative Teaming
- Educational Programming
- Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Advice from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Teachers Regarding Literacy Instruction
- Advice for Peer Tutors
- Applying the Ziggurat and CAPS Model in Your School District
- Aspects of Support for Learning
- A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
- Can Schedule Usage Training Include Elements of Literacy Instruction?
- Clean Up Your Act! Creating an Organized Classroom Environment for Students on the Spectrum.
- Change is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
- Classroom Choreography: The Art of Scheduling Staff and Students
- Creating a Circle of Support
- Complexities of Instructional Support
- Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
- Developing Long Term Relationships Between School and Parents
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parent’s Perspective
- Educating Students with Autism: Are There Differences in Placement?
- Establishing Long Term Goals: What Are We Hoping to Achieve
- For General Education Teachers: Helpful Questions to Ask About Students with ASD
- Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
- "Ham It Up and Get It Cookin!!" Thoughts From Dr. Greenspan
- Home-School Communication
- "I Can Do It Myself!" Using Work Systems to Build Independence in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- “I Wake Up for MY Dream!” Personal Futures Planning Circles of Support, MAPS and PATH
- Life After High School...So Now What
- Literacy Resources
- Lovaas Revisited: Should We Have Ever Left?
- Making the Most of Morning Meeting
- Motivating Students Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Moving from Preschool to Kindergarten: Planning for a Successful Transition and New Relationships
- Peer Support Programs
- Promoting the Educational Success of Students with Autism: The Role of the Parent-Staff Relationship
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels
- Practical Steps to Writing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: And Writing Them Well
- Practical Recommendations for Utilizing a Range of Instructional Approaches in General Education Settings
- Recognizing Different Types of Readers with ASD
- Reframing Our Thinking and Getting to Know the Child
- Restricted Repertoires in Autism and What We Can Do About It
- School Cultures that Support Students Across the Autism Spectrum
- Service Learning: Something to Think About
- Supporting Staff Using Coaching Model
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome
- Teaching Students Who Are Low-Functioning: Who Are They and What Should We Teach?
- Theory of Mind in Autism: Development, Implications, and Intervention
- There is No Place Called Inclusion
- The Road to Post-Secondary Education: Questions to Consider
- Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism
- Tips to Consider When Including a Student with ASD in Art, Music, or Physical Education
- Transition: Preparing for a Lifetime
- Transition to Middle School
- Transition Time: Helping Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Move Successfully from One Activity to Another
- Understanding the Design and Power of a Personal Schedule
- Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents
- Who Are We Working for Anyway? Avoiding Personal Agendas at Meetings to Better Support Individuals Across the Autism Spectrum
- Structured Teaching Strategies: A Series
- Growing Up Together
- How to Open A Combination Lock/Locker
- Supporting Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Postsecondary Transition
- Curriculum Materials and Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Implementation and Effectiveness of Using Video Self-Modeling with Students with ASD
- Video Self-Modeling How To and Examples
- Advocates: Qualities to Look for and Choosing the Correct One for YOU
- Considering an Overnight Camp Program for your Child on the Autism Spectrum?
- Finding or Starting a Support Group
- Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Your Son/Daughter on the Autism Spectrum
- Selected Bibliography for Families of People within the Autism Spectrum
- Selected National Resources for Information on Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Selected Resources for Understanding and Supporting Siblings
- Setting the Stage for Parent-Professional Collaboration
- Siblings Perspectives: Some Guidelines for Parents
- What About the Dads?
- When Your Child is Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- What to Do If You Suspect Your Son/Daughter Might Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- For Parents: Preparing for the School Year
- Self Help/Medical
- Teaching a Young Man to Shave
- An Introduction to Possible Biomedical Causes and Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders
- The "M" Word
- Mealtime and Children on the Autism Spectrum: Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads
- Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite:
- Taking Your Son/Daughter with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to the Dentist
- Teaching a Young Woman to Shave
- Anxiety and Panic Struggles
- Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Having THE Talk with Your Child with ASD
- General Information
- Assessment Processes for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Purpose and Procedures
- Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder
- Disability Information for Someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Customized Example
- Getting Started: Introducing Your Child to His or Her Diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome
- Increasing Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders Continues in Indiana
- Standardized Tests and Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Article 7, Title 511
- What’s in a Name: Our Only Label Should Be Our Name: Avoiding the Stereotypes
- For Physicians: Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders and Working with Schools
- Behavioral Issues and the Use of Social Stories
- How to “Lose the Training Wheels:” A New Way to Teach Bicycle Riding
- Living in Fear: Anxiety in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Local Community Resources to Enhance Activities
- Making (and Keeping) Friends: A Model for Social Skills Instruction
- Making Camps Accessible for All
- Play in the Lives of Young Children with Autism
- Play Time: An Examination Of Play Intervention Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Social Activity Groups: Another Approach for Helping to Bridge the Friendship Gap
- Teaching Social Skills through Theatre
- The Collective Outcomes of School-Based Social Skill Interventions for Children on the Autism Spectrum
- The Value of Movement Activities for Young Children
- We All Need Exercise
- Finding a Friend in School
- Bullying and Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Incorporating Typical Peers Into the Social Learning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Articles by Temple Grandin
- An Inside View of Autism
- Choosing the Right Job for People with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome
- Evaluating the Effects of Medication
- Genius May Be an Abnormality: Educating Students with Asperger's Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism
- Making the Transition from the World of School into the World of Work
- Social Problems: Understanding Emotions and Developing Talents
- Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism
Opportunity to Communicate: A Crucial Aspect of Fostering Communication Development
Contributed by Beverly Vicker
Communication has long been recognized as an important skill for children to develop. For children who have limited skills, some basic elements are necessary for a child to develop an adequate communication system. The child has to have a need to communicate, a means by which he or she can communicate, opportunities to communicate, and supportive communication partners (Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998). Often the emphasis of a program is on the development of a means of communication whether it be oral speech, sign language, or some other form of augmentative communication. This article will only focus on one element, the need for opportunity to experience communicative exchanges, and to acquire and practice communication skills.
It is not easy to discuss the issue of opportunity because to increase opportunity requires more time investment from the adults in the child’s life and sometimes changing the comfort zone for the child. This always involves a balancing act between competing goals and recognition of surrounding circumstances. Key elements are illustrated in the following diagram. All of the elements are important so there needs to be adequate opportunities for all to occur each day.
Independence of the child.
Interactions by the child with others.
According to Hart and Risley (1999), there may be up to 338 utterances produced per hour by a typical child 24 months of age and potentially 5,000 utterances in an average day. Not all of the utterances are directed to others and not all are responded to by parents. But, even if a given child only engaged in 700 exchanges per day with an adult, that still represents considerable time during the course of a week, month, and year to potentially practice communication skills. One must ask, how many communicative exchanges take place during the typical day of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who is learning to communicate? What proportion are adult initiated? How many take place at school? How many at home? How many, in either situation, are unique exchanges versus a routine exchange? (In highly routinized exchanges, children do not necessarily gain new skills in vocabulary, syntax, functional use ,and background knowledge.) If a skill is still new, how many exchanges or practice opportunities have existed to firmly establish the new skill or to promote generalization?
Seven hundred exchanges a day is actually a low figure for a typical child who has verbal skills. Goals for a child with special needs are often lower than an arbitrary 700 exchanges and qualitatively different. For verbal behavior training, an applied behavior analysis program, the goal is usually 500 responses a day. For users of typical augmentative communication systems, 500 utterances a day should be a reasonable target. The Picture Exchange Communication System suggests 80 as a minimum rate. Language and communication skill development can be compromised if a child has an adequate means of communication, but the frequency of use is very low.
Very few adults, if any, set out to deliberately compromise opportunities for learning language and communication. Sometimes compromise happens because parents are too invested in other goals. The use of a pacifier with children older than 18 months of age is a good example, and it is an illustration that is not restricted to children with ASD. When one is out in the community, one frequently sees children of various ages with pacifiers in their mouths. The pacifier can help with emotional regulation keeping the child calm and relaxed amid the sensory stimulation of the community. This represents a good goal BUT the question remains if this is the best way of achieving emotional regulation once the child is beyond 18 months of age. The use of a pacifier is not a problem from a communication perspective when a child is napping or sleeping at nighttime during the early years. The child is not missing out on interaction during this time period. During awake hours, however, some children seem zoned out with their sucking behavior and the parents often do not talk to the child because he or she is so content. So much language learning opportunities are wasted and the child is less likely to take the initiative with commenting or calling attention to something because of the device in his or her mouth. This article is not saying “Do not use a pacifier.” Rather it is saying, “Are you missing language/communication interaction opportunities with your child, particularly when out in the community? Can you provide alternative periods of having the pacifier in and out? Can you talk more to your child, even when it is in and he may need to nod or gesture?” Being in the community can be challenging for a child with ASD but if you can capture his or her attention with something for brief periods of time, the community can also be a memorable and interesting learning environment.
Missed opportunities can also occur at home. Again the objective is to have balance in the child’s life. Most parents use time while their child is occupied with TV or video viewing to get some necessary household chores done or to have a moment to one’s self. This is necessary BUT sitting alone with the TV or computer does not improve your child’s language or interaction skills. A parent would seem to need several strategies for the child who favors excessive viewing and limited interaction. The first strategy will take time and effort. Attempt to sit down with your child and intermittently interact about the content. If you’re lucky, you will be able to direct his or her attention to some aspect of what is happening by using a directional point. (“Oh, look, Tigger is jumping again. Boing-boing-boing”). If it is hard to direct his or her attention, you might want to build a well padded finger on the end of a dowel and use that to point to what you want your child to notice. You could ask him or her a simple question such as is ‘Is Pooh there too? Where is he?” and encourage your child to point. Keep the intrusions limited to a few the first time, and maybe this activity can grow into some nice interaction over time.
Some children are so “zoned out” on the sensory aspect of viewing video or TV that you will be viewed as an annoyance or distraction while they are waiting for their favorite scene in a video. Try several things to see if you can build this into an interactive situation. First, give your child a warning that you will be sitting next to him or her for awhile. You may need to do some sensory things such as rubbing his or her back to reduce the anxiety/annoyance of you being there. This can build up a positive value for your presence. You may want to mention something about the video or whatever after the event. Once your presence is perceived as an acceptable variation on the usual viewing situation, you can begin to make a comment or ask a question but not at the moment of his or her favorite part. Your speech pathologist can help you make up a topic board for a video and that may help facilitate a few exchanges. A parent can provide good modeling of how the communication support can be used. Look for opportunities to teach new vocabulary and to explain actions.
An alternative strategy is to use the schedule and timer, and limit the time for watching or playing video games or other self absorbing activities. Choose to involve your child in activities where there will be some interaction. Initially it will be important to really tap into your child’s interests to counter resistance. Pick something that he or she likes to do and finds satisfying. It may only be a 7-8 out of 10 on a scale of interest and satisfaction, but it has to be of sufficient value to compete with videos, TV, computer, or games. If your child has no other interests, then that is a red flag signal for you to start helping him or her to build interests that will involve him or her with other people. It may take time to broaden interests but there will be a payoff in terms of building better communication skills and social interest.
The last barrier to communication opportunities can be the equally important goal of independence. It is very important for children with autism spectrum disorders to not be cue or prompt dependent, to be able to take the initiative to meet their own needs and to be able to occupy themselves with something of personal interest. BUT, being independent most of the time, means that the child does not need someone to help satisfy his or her needs. By not needing someone, he or she has a legitimate reason to not have to interact. So, some opportunities to communicate and interact are lost by default. This means that parents and teachers will have to create new needs that can only be resolved by interacting with another person. The opportunities often need to be planned. As mentioned earlier, one is looking to put some balance into the life of the child with ASD because without adequate opportunities to communicate, the child will have less developed skills. The child will also develop habits that do not include interaction. Different strategies will be needed with the child who has adequate opportunity in school or at home, but who is reluctant or not interested in communicating.
Opportunities to communicate/interact can abound if the child has an adequate means of communication. If the child does not, then the various elements of creating need, providing a means, and providing an opportunity should occur in tandem. If communication partners do not know how to be supportive, then this element must be addressed as well. Opportunity to communicate is not an area that can be ignored within an intervention program.
Beukelman, D., & Miranda, P. (1998). Augmentative and alternative communication: Management of severe communication disorders in children and adults (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.
Hart, B. & Risley, T. (1999). The social world of children learning to talk. Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing Co.
Vicker, B. (2006). Opportunity to communicate: A crucial aspect of fostering communication development. The Reporter, 11(2), 16-18.