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Whether someone is verbal or non-verbal, the fact remains that we communicate with them in their own language  and through organised play or shared space. When we talk about language, we work out what works best for them and it might be a combination of different communication methods.

Early Communication

The key is to begin teaching some form of communication system as early as possible so that they have a way to tell you what they need or want. This will reduce the need for the person to use challenging behaviour as their way of communicating their message to you. It is also really important to practise the use of these systems as much as possible in different settings such as home, school, in the community, after school programs and short term accommodation. The person will need to know how to use it in many different scenarios and situations.

Communication Methods

Some of the communication methods that are useful, simple to use and that complement each other, that we would highly recommend are the following:

  • Picture Exchange Communicaton System (PECS)
  • Signing – Keyword Sign (Makaton sign) & Auslan
  • Physical gestures
  • Device applications – Proloquo2Go


With any of these methods, it’s crucial to find or source out experts in their specialised fields to teach a person how to use these and develop their skills based on their needs.

As a parent or professional supporting the person, it is worthwhile learning about these systems as well so that you are familiar with how they work and will know how to respond, prompt and encourage them to use it consistently.

Communication & Interaction

Communication can also come in the form of play or interaction where you join the person on their level and encourage interaction through similar gestures and responses. There has been a lot of work in the last few years around a concept called ‘Intensive Interaction’ and it works primarily on the ‘Fundamentals of Communication’. It is worth considering this method as a way of introducing the early interaction abilities and learning to be with other people. You can find more information on this interesting method by going to the website at https://www.intensiveinteraction.org/

Teaching different methods of communication to someone who is non-verbal is not only going to help them to get their message across to the world around them but they will also feel independent and in control.

Written by Sherri Cincotta

Watch the video HERE

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