FCT in Focus: Building Communication Skills in Autism

Functional communication training (FCT) is a transformative part of ABA therapy, especially for children with autism.

March 11, 2024

Functional communication training (FCT) is a transformative part of ABA therapy, especially for children with autism. It teaches them how to express their needs and feelings in a way others can understand. FCT breaks down language barriers, replacing challenging behaviors with effective communication.

At Rising Above ABA, we’re committed to unlocking these communication paths. Our FCT program is highly tailored, focusing on the individual strengths and needs of each child. We help each and every child to find their voice, empowering them for everyday interactions.

How Functional Communication Training Works

FCT works by first understanding a child’s unique communication challenges. We begin by finding out what they struggle to express, and why. Children with autism often struggle with social interactions and may use tantrums or withdrawal to try to express themselves.

Once we have identified any areas for improvement, we can create a treatment plan tailored to the child’s needs. FCT specifically addresses issues by teaching alternative, socially acceptable ways of communicating. This could be through words, signs, or even technology. Our ABA therapists are trained to make this learning as engaging and effective as possible for each child.

What FCT Achieves in ABA Therapy

Functional communication training has a remarkably positive impact on children with ASD. Kids who have previously relied on maladaptive behavior to communicate, learn to use words, gestures, or other tools to express themselves. This reduces their frustration and leads to more effective interactions at home, in school, and in social settings.

While FCT does reduce challenging behaviors, the therapy is far more focused on empowering adaptive ones. Appropriate behavior is reinforced and negative behavior is ignored, which makes the learning experience much easier on the child. FCT gently enhances their ability to engage with others and navigate daily life more independently.

A Parent’s Guide to FCT

For parents, FCT is a journey of partnership and learning. It’s important to understand that this training isn’t just conducted in therapy sessions; it extends to home and everyday life. To get the best possible results, it takes consistency, patience, and celebrating each small victory.

Parents and families play a crucial role in reinforcing the new communication skills that FCT introduces. At-home practice includes keeping up with the routine of offering better ways of asking for things, as well as ignoring any outbursts or negative routes. Our team provides support and guidance, making this journey together with parents and children.

What to Expect and How to Participate

As a parent, knowing what to expect in FCT can help you in supporting your child effectively. The process begins with an assessment, identifying specific communication challenges and goals. You’ll see how therapists introduce new communication methods in a supportive, engaging way.

Participation is key—parents are encouraged to reinforce these skills at home. Expect regular updates and involvement in the therapy process. Remember, your active participation and encouragement play a vital role in your child’s progress in FCT.

Functional Communication Training Examples

Many children with ASD prefer nonverbal or untraditional ways of communicating. For example, a child may learn that when they throw a tantrum, they are given the toy or item they want. Each time they do this successfully, it reinforces that this is how one asks for that item. Non-ASD children do this, too, of course, but learn much quicker that this isn’t socially acceptable.

An ABA therapist would step in here and introduce a new method of asking for the item. This often involves trialing different options, like using gestures or pictures to make a request, instead of acting out. By ignoring the tantrum, prompting the adaptive functional communication behavior, and only handing over the toy when they use the preferred communication method, over time the child learns to express themselves better.

In therapy, these skills are taught through games, activities, and direct instruction. Over time, the new methods of interacting become a natural part of how they express themselves. Each child’s FCT journey is unique, but the goal is the same: clearer, more effective communication.

Measuring Success in FCT: Beyond the Therapy Sessions

Success in FCT goes beyond therapy sessions and is visible in everyday interactions. Improvements might be gradual, but they are significant—a new word used, a gesture made, a decrease in frustration. We also measure success through feedback from parents and teachers. Regular assessments are used to track progress and adjust goals along the way.

Connect and Grow With Rising Above ABA

Connecting with Rising Above ABA means gaining an invaluable partner in your child’s communication journey. We are dedicated to supporting your family through FCT and beyond, taking the time to assess each child’s unique needs and potential. Our expertise in ABA and FCT equips us to provide effective, compassionate support. Reach out to us today to learn more about how FCT can help your child communicate with confidence.

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