A person’s functional communication is what is working best for that person right now.
- is anything that helps get the point across.
- can be on purpose (intentional) that means something specific. Examples are someone pointing to request a cookie or saying “I need to use the bathroom.”
- can be by accident (unintended) that we understand means something specific. Examples are crying in a certain way that signals pain.
- is best understood by familiar communication partners.
Familiar communication partners are…
- the best people to understand what a person is saying.
- often the people most comfortable with the current communication.
- can help others understand what the person is saying. One way to help is by sharing a communication dictionary. Here is a link to an example of a communication dictionary.
Functional Communication Types & Behaviors include…
- speech attempts, sounds, body language, facial expressions, and gestures. These gestures may, or may not, start as American Sign Language (ASL). Many people with complex communication needs are not able to use exact signs. Instead, they change these signs, using their hands as best they can
- may mean something different at different times of the day. It might mean that they are hungry, want to watch TV, or are tired, depending on the hour. Someone who is familiar with the person knows what these behaviors mean.
Functional Communication doesn’t work when…
- someone melts down and becomes really upset.
- the person is in a new situation.
- with unfamiliar people.
- the person needs something, not in their typical routine.
- they can’t communicate what they are feeling.
Consider another method to communicate like augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). AAC can help…
- if communication breaks down repeatedly.
- if they do not have a way to communicate wants, needs, feelings, and thoughts understandably
- the person to communicate with a wider range of people. They might not be limited to their best-known or close communication partners. They can talk to anyone.