What Is Functional Communication Training?

Home » Blog » Career » Communication Skills » What Is Functional Communication Training?

What Is Functional Communication Training?

Functional communication training (FCT) is the process of teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental problems meaningful and functional communication in a natural way.

Functional communication training is commonly utilized to assist ABA practitioners in teaching children with ASD to replace challenging behaviors with appropriate, socially acceptable communication. FCT is a highly practical therapy that teaches children to communicate effectively while asking for the items they need in their daily lives. It is sometimes referred to as a positive behavior support intervention.

Aggression, destruction, self-harm, escape, non-compliance, and other unwanted actions are examples of difficult behavior. FCT can be used by ABA practitioners with nonverbal or limited-vocabulary children.

How Is Functional Communication Training Used in Applied Behavior Analysis?

Children with ASD frequently display inappropriate behavior as a result of frustration and anxiety caused by their inability to communicate their needs and desires. FCT is used alone or in combination with other behavioral therapies to allow children with ASD to communicate in other ways, reducing the frustration that comes with being unable to speak.

FCT’s purpose is to give the child a new means to communicate so that the bad behaviors that come with being frustrated because of a lack of communication are naturally eradicated. FCT does not always include learning words; alternatively, it can imply educating a kid with ASD to communicate in whatever way that is appropriate.

A speech and language pathologist or a behavioral psychologist trained in ABA could advise parents on the suitability of FCT. Some experts warn parents not to expect immediate outcomes; it may take time for FCT to replace problematic behaviors with positive communication acts.

How Is Functional Communication Training Implemented?

The following steps are completed by an ABA practitioner:

  • Conducts an evaluation of the challenging conduct
  • Chooses the best type of alternate communication for the youngster.
  • systematically imparts the new communication skill to the youngster
  • When the youngster utilises the intended communication, reinforces the child’s conduct.
  • Reminds the child to communicate using his or her favourite method.
  • When a child engages in challenging behaviour, he or she is ignored.
  • FCT is not a quick fix for resolving problematic behaviour.

In fact, the process of teaching the new communication skill and teaching the child to use it in favor of the troubling behavior can take weeks or even months. When taught correctly, however, it can significantly reduce difficult behavior in both the short and long term.

A nonverbal youngster with ASD who would smash her head off the table every time she requested more juice is a good illustration of FCT. While the act of beating her head was effective in that her mother would refill her cup when she did so, it was evident that there was a better, safer way to let her mother know she wanted more juice.

To replace the headbanging, the ABA therapist began teaching another method of communication: tapping her cup on the table. By tapping the cup on the table, the ABA practitioner would practice with the child’s mother, who would respond by saying, “Oh, you’d like another cup of juice!” and then refilling the cup.

What Is Functional Communication Training (FCT) Used for?

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a technique for determining the reason for challenging behavior and teaching a more appropriate manner of communication that requires equivalent or less effort. When a child wants a toy but is unable to ask for it, they may have a meltdown. The youngster would be taught how to ask for the toy in a more suitable manner in FCT, for as by voice, Key Word Sign, gestures, or drawings.

The first functional communication research was carried out in the United States in the 1980s. Traditional behavior therapy gave way to Functional Communication Training (FCT). After receiving these traditional therapies, people tended to revert to their old patterns of behaving.

FCT (Functional Communication Training) is based on learning theory and Applied Behavior Analysis principles (ABA). According to learning theory, how people act in a circumstance is influenced by their previous experiences in comparable situations.

FCT is based on the premise that all behavior, especially challenging behavior, is a form of communication. Before attempting to change a challenging behavior, you must first teach a child another means to communicate so that the youngster no longer requires the previous behavior. Otherwise, the youngster would be left with neither the old nor the new behavior and will be unable to communicate.

What Does Functional Communication Training (FCT) Involve?

  • A complete functional assessment of a child’s challenging behaviour is the first step. The next step is to begin treatment. This entails:
  • deciding on a more appropriate way for the child to communicate
  • teaching the child the new communication skill
  • systematically teaching the child the new communication skill reinforcing the child’s behaviour whenever the child uses the new skill ignoring the difficult behavior
  •  whenever it occurs prompting or reminding the child to use the new skill when appropriate. This treatment could take a long time (perhaps weeks or months). It can be rather time consuming, especially in the beginning.

Functional communication training involves teaching individuals a new skill that they can use in everyday life. For example, a child may be taught to bring a picture of juice to a restaurant or a babysitter might be taught to use the same phrase to ask for more time. In addition to teaching these individuals how to express themselves, these methods also reduce problem behaviors and increase self-esteem. These methods are especially helpful in situations where an individual may have difficulty verbally communicating with others.

Whether a child has a language problem or not, Functional Communication Training helps identify the underlying reason for the behavior and learn more appropriate ways of communicating. For instance, a child may have a meltdown because they cannot ask for a toy. Through functional communication training, parents and caregivers can teach their children how to communicate more effectively with words, gestures, and pictures. This is especially important for children with limited speech and understanding.

Functional communication training is usually taught in one-on-one settings with a clinician, such as a speech and a language pathologist or a behavioral psychologist who has taken ABA classes. It is also important for the parents and teachers to reinforce the training. A parent or teacher can help a child practice using the signs they’ve learned through this training. This method was developed to decrease troubling behaviors associated with autism, such as biting and throwing a fit.

What Are the Benefits of Functional Communicating?

In addition to reducing troubling behaviors, functional communication training can improve the quality of a person’s life. Some learners may learn to speak vocally with the help of functional communication training. A BCBA is an ideal choice for this treatment. You can also ask a BCBA about this program for more information. It is an effective way to improve your child’s life. This program is available for any type of learning difficulty.

The benefits of functional communication training include an improved ability to communicate with others and reduced self-injury. During the training, participants learn how to use signs to communicate with others, such as asking for a drink. Moreover, it helps improve their ability to express themselves verbally. When a child is able to communicate with a parent, he can even communicate with his partner. When a child has trouble speaking, it can lead to other challenges such as a lack of attention or physical abuse.

If a child has difficulty communicating verbally, the training will help them learn how to communicate through pictures. The process of teaching children to communicate through pictures is called picture exchange communication. In this method, the learner hands over a picture that contains words to get a drink or an object. Hence, it is important to use functional communication training. There are two types of language skills: oral and nonverbal. The first one is called expressive language, while the other is known as a visual language.

Functional Communication Training for Children With Autism

Functional communication training is a technique that uses pictures to express what is needed. It is most beneficial when the training is taught at an early age. This type of communication is more effective when children are rewarded for specific behavior. Aside from providing a variety of visual items that they like, the technique helps improve the skills of a child. Further, it can improve the quality of a person’s life. It can also help the child to make friends and build relationships.

This method of training aims to improve the way a person uses words and sounds. Unlike traditional language training, functional communication can lead to increased vocal speech. It can help a person communicate more effectively with other people. This method of speech therapy is especially beneficial for those with ASD. It focuses on the way the learner wants to be understood. This approach can be used to help the learner achieve more in life.

The first stage in functional communication training is the teaching of words and phrases. The next step is to teach the child how to use the language they can understand. This type of therapy is a key component in helping a child with autism develop social skills and communication. Often, this kind of treatment will result in a person learning to speak in their native language. The benefits of this program are numerous. Functional communication training is an effective tool for improving the quality of life for individuals with Autism.

What Are Some Teaching Strategies to Reduce Problem Behaviors in Children with Autism?

Picture exchanges, icon exchanges, gestures, and sign language are all common types of functional communication training. It’s crucial to understand that communication therapy does not imply that your child will speak. Rather, any kind of communication could be considered acceptable.

Trumpet’s Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) will collaborate closely with your child’s autism behavioral therapist and other members of the treatment team to decide which functional communication goals will have the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time. While the goal is to get your youngster to talk, there may be a few phases involved in doing so.

At Trumpet Behavioral Health, there are several strategies that may be implemented to achieve functional communication training goals. Some examples of this include:

  •  Natural Environment Training
  • Verbal Behavior
  •  Discrete Trial Training
  •  Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) Protocol
  • American Sign Language or Sign Exact English
  • Modeling
  • Differential Reinforcement
  • Contriving Motivating Operations
  • Errorless Learning

These are just a few forms of communication that may be used to help your child grow their skills. As part of your child’s autism treatment plan, our BCBA Professionals will determine what kinds of communication training will make the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time.


Communication problems characterize Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which can emerge in demanding behavior. Functional Communication Training may help your autistic kid communicate his or her desires and needs more effectively, reducing the need for demanding behaviors like tantrums.

Even while this is frequently what comes to mind first when we think of the word communication, it encompasses much more than just verbal and nonverbal connection. Much of our ordinary activity (some say all of it) is also a type of communication.

It’s easy to imagine yourself in a supermarket aisle, trying to go to the other side, but someone is blocking the aisle with their shopping cart. “Excuse me,” you say, but they’re on their phone, talking loudly, and they don’t even recognize you. You’re in a hurry and need something from that particular aisle, so you roll your eyes and touch them on the shoulder nicely (communicating a need to get their attention).

When research shows that FCT is an empirically supported technique for children with autism, it may be worth investing the effort. This implies it meets evidence-based practice criteria and has been shown to help autistic adolescents and youngsters develop good behavior and communication skills.

About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.

Leave a Comment