skip to main content
Functional Communication Training (FCT)

Functional Communication Training (FCT)

Thursday, November 03, 2022

As young children enter and move through the school years, their behaviors adapt and change to new environments and responsibilities. For kids with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, or other developmental disabilities, setting good habits and behaviors can be especially trying. 

Last month we discussed the process of shaping, which can be utilized to impact good educational habits through small rewards over time. A similar strategy called Functional Communication Training is a more tailored version of shaping. It seeks to address inappropriate or harmful behaviors ranging from non-compliance with tasks to escaping or aggression.


Functional Communication Training (FCT)

It may seem at first like a misnomer, but even for children who are verbal, being disruptive, lashing out, and challenging peers, parents, and teachers at its root is always an issue with communication. 

How Functional Communication Training Works

The first step in implementing Functional Communication Training is determining the root cause of a noted behavioral problem. Observations need to be made to link what triggers a particular child to act out. 

You can’t modify a behavior if you don’t know what to change. The following items are a stepping-off point for this process:

  • Specify the difficult behavior
  • Observe what leads up to the behavior display
  • Document what actions get the behavior to stop

From this point, enough data has been collected to begin formulating a way to address and change the behavior to a more desirable outcome. Every child is unique. Even if the same pattern of behavior was observed between the two kids above, the training needed to break that behavior may be and often will be vastly different.

The core of modifying negative behaviors is to make it just as, if not easier, for the child to get the desired result. If they throw a tantrum because they know every time they will swiftly be given a snack, you need to make sure you address the modified behavior just as quickly. Reward their politeness and good habits, and they’ll start to stick.

Selecting a Suitable Communication Strategy

Autism spectrum and other developmental disorders present differently in every person. For this reason, it is essential to choose an appropriate way for communication to occur. 

For some kids, they may be able and comfortable learning and implementing verbal communication, even if only a few essential words. Other children may not feel as comfortable or be as vocal but may excel with basic gestures, sign language, or some form of picture exchange system. The important thing is to pick a strategy they are comfortable enough with to actually use.

Implementing the New Communication

Whatever strategy is decided upon, work needs to be done to ensure the child knows why you want them to communicate this way and exactly what the outcome will be. It is essential to walk through the desired behavior and make sure they can demonstrate the process of using this new communication to get the attention or outcome they want.

As soon as they can show understanding and demonstrate the new method, it is vital to not positively reinforce the old behavior. You want the student to associate that the new communication method is the only one that gets their wants and attention addressed. The more wants you can associate with similar communication, the more cohesive this strategy becomes. 

It is also helpful to utilize this strategy across all the settings they may find themselves in. Practice good communication by ensuring all caretakers are on board and understand how to approach the new and old behaviors. From the home and school settings to relatives and other friends, if everyone reacts the same, it will help further reinforce the positive behavior.

With so much time spent on education in a kid's early life, it is essential to know your child's teachers understand the issue and can help address these special needs in the classroom setting.

Tailored Help in Education

We understand some students have learning barriers that interfere with their ability to read, write, spell or calculate. Other students have obstacles that interfere with their ability to control their attention or emotions. Many of our students experience not one barrier, but several. This compounded difficulty makes them vulnerable in regular education environments.

Ignite Achievement Academy specializes in working with students in grades K-12 with learning barriers. These barriers often include learning disabilities, language disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Our goals with students are to:

  • Improve their ability to learn academic skills and subjects;
  • Help them solve problems;
  • Help them make friends and function well in a school environment; and
  • Help them feel productive, competent, and happy.

Through compassionate, structured teaching practices and support for the whole child, students receive the skills and support needed to thrive. At IAA, we equip students with training to build essential academic skills to successfully complete coursework, solve problems, and meet the academic and social demands of their school environment.

Teachers and administrators utilize a variety of data and assessment tools and a school-developed academic plan through which we are able to customize learning for every student’s educational, social, and environmental needs.

Strategies we use include one-to-one instruction, small-class size, small-school size, ready access to a staff member who can help students work through problems that may seem overwhelming, close supervision, frequent prompts and encouragement, and strategies to facilitate learning.

Most importantly, we maintain a school atmosphere where everyone supports each other and accepts and appreciates individual differences.

Our methods and materials are based on decades of educational research that support maximized student learning. These methods have been further subjected to rigorous in-house testing and are continuously improved and updated. The result is a robust educational program where learning and success are ignited for every child.

Contact us to schedule a tour and learn more about how we can work together to help your student succeed.