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What is FUNctional communication?

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

We emphasize the FUN in FUNctional communication.



One of my most memorable experiences during my graduate school training was when one of my clinical instructors verbally scolded me for writing goals for my three year old client to label colors and numbers. As a student clinician, I thought it was totally appropriate for my client who had limited communication and several maladaptive behaviors to work on identifying colors and numbers because he didn’t know these basic concepts at three years old.


My instructor explained to me that spending valuable time working on colors and numbers for my client would not give him the words he needed to express his wants and needs which are more important than saying colors and numbers. I am grateful that my supervisor taught me this valuable lesson as an aspiring speech-language pathologist. I learned that I needed to spend time teaching my clients words and phrases that allowed them to request, protest and respond to information presented. The essence of functional communication is teaching words and phrases that serve a purpose and/or meet a need.


As a speech-language pathologist, I believe It is more effective for me to provide therapy that focuses on meaningful communication skills rather than basic concepts such as identifying shapes and colors. Although it is important for children to have a good understanding of these concepts, having a functional communication system is more useful and practical for the client. Ultimately, this will empower the client to communicate their wants and needs and potentially decrease their frustrations and maladaptive behaviors.


At Lifespan Speech and Swallow Therapy, we aim to provide functional and customized interventions that meet the client’s needs and provide them with a useful communication system. Our goal is to partner with client’s, parents and caregivers to help them achieve speech, language and feeding developmental milestones. We also put the FUN in functional communication while working toward positive outcomes.


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