By Emily Diekhoff, M.S., CCC-SLP
Communication is about interaction and we interact for a variety of reasons. These reasons are communicative functions which are the purposes we communicate during day-to-day interactions with the world around us!
We all use these communicative functions, but it is important to note that especially for AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication) users to learn the language needed to communicate for different reasons, they need to see others do it! We can show and model on their AAC systems as we talk to them during daily interactions. We can show how we communicate different messages for different reasons using AAC devices by doing so on a regular and reliable basis. So what are the different reasons why we communicate?
1. Requesting for items/activities
This form of the communication is designed to get a desired item or action. This is typically where we start teaching in regards to communicative functions as it is the most reinforcing function for many children. Many individuals can get really good at asking for items/activities. They can make requests for their favorite foods, videos, places to go, favorite toys, etc. Making requests is motivating for many children, and it is typically one of the first reasons they initiate communication.Some examples include:
Ideas to practice requesting items:
There is far more to language and communication than just requesting. There are so many more reasons why we communicate! Incorporating a variety of types of communication will make learning language more fun, engaging, and motivating!
2. Refusing or rejecting items/activities
This is just what it sounds like! Basically, it is requesting for something to be gone.Some examples include:
Ideas to practice rejecting/refusing
3. Requesting attention
This is another type of request but it is different from the above requests as it includes a social interaction component.Some examples include:
Ideas to practice getting attention:
4. Labeling and Describing
Labeling and naming things are important in building language! It allows you to talk about things and activities. Adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions makes it easier to describe things and talk about experiences and situations. Describing items can assist with making requests and comments more specific.Some examples include:
Ideas to practice labeling and describing:
This involves providing information, sometimes just for social sharing on a situation. We often use it as a way to gain social interactions or share an experience.Some examples include:
Ideas to practice commenting:
6. Asking and Answering Questions
An important communicative function is being able to answer and ask a variety of different questions. Yes/no, who, what, where, when, why, and how are all types of questions that people ask and answer in everyday activities to gain or provide more information.Some examples include:
Ideas to practice answering questions:
7. Expressing Feelings
This includes being able to state how one is feeling during day-to-day interactions with those around us.Examples include:
Ideas to practice expressing feelings
8. Engaging in Social Routines
These include social interactions that occur in day-to-day situations.
Ideas to practice social routines:
There are even more communication functions, but these functions, examples, and practice ideas are a great starting point to support and expand communication and language skills. Incorporating a variety of types of communication functions will make learning language more fun, engaging, and motivating!
Beukelman, David R., and Pat Mirenda. Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Supporting Children and Adults with Complex Communication Needs. Paul H. Brookes Pub., 2013.
“What Are Communicative Functions & How Can You Expand Them?” Autism Classroom Resources, 23 Oct. 2016, www.autismclassroomresources.com/communicative-functions/.
November 22, 2019, Morgan McClellan