Functional communication refers to the foremost basic level of communication skills to satisfy one’s basic wants and wishes and to convey his or her feelings and emotions like “I want that”, “open the door”, “I am hurt”.

Who Needs to Work on Functional Communication?
For most children, functional communication begins to emerge within the first year of life with gestures and is expanded on within the following years with words and later into simple sentences. However, for kids with speech and language delays or other disorders such as ASD would have difficulty in communicating functionally. We might need to train these children to communicate effectively to reduce some kind of frustration otherwise, it can lead to challenging behaviours in them.

How do we train on Functional Communication?
You should seek out a certified speech-language pathologist for assistance, if your child is struggling to communicate his or her basic wants and needs.
The following is an overview of what a speech-language pathologist may do for a child who has an inability to communicate functionally.

Step One: Finding a suitable mean for communication
Many of us tend to believe that speech is the only form of communication, but we need to keep in mind that communication means , its an act of sending and receiving information in verbal or non- verbal mode. For kids with speech and language delays, means of communication must be considered as appropriate alternatives. It can be a combination of spoken messages , body language, gestures and written messages.

Here are different means of communication which will be appropriate for a kid who lacks to functionally communicate. A speech-language pathologist will be able to decide which is the most appropriate method for each child, this includes:
Gestures and Body Language: The child can use gestures and body language to communicate what he/she wants and how he/she is feeling.
Sign Language: Children who are unable to speak can often use simple signs to communicate their basic wants and needs which includes Indian sign Language, American Sign Language etc.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): This is another alternative means of communication that allows a child to communicate using pictures of what he/she wants by exchanging pictures to the receiver.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) :Use of unaided and aided devices such as AAC apps.

Step Two: Choose New Words to Teach
Once you select an appropriate means of communication for a kid, you’ll then want to show him or her to use meaning to speak .
If the child is not communicating much yet, you will have to create an intent to communicate. For this you need to choose things that are highly motivating to the child, such as a favorite food or toy or games

Step Three: Model the New Words
Once that you have chosen a word, you will need to model it for him or her as much as possible. The targeted word has to be bombarded in a variety of natural environment or settings. Say the word by itself repeatedly then in two-word combinations also to point out how it are often used.
You should be demonstrating in such a way that you expect your child to say the targeted word while you bombard that word to the child. For example, if you want the child to say ” Give me car ” you should say and model the word “car” many, many times for the child before you ever expect him to say/sign/push it. Children with language delays take time to understand hear things and register in their brain, so it’s necessary for the children to hear things many times to learn them so, be patient!

Step Four: Giving temptation for saying a word
Now that your child has been exposed to the word over and once again , you ought to start fixing temptations which will encourage the kid to use the word. For example, put that item ( eg:Car) high up on a shelf so that the child can see it but not reach it. You should look confused and say “what? What do you want?”, when he/she tries to reach to it or points to it. Give the kid a while by waiting to ascertain if he will say/sign/push it by himself. Try counting to 10 in your head so you recognize you’ve waited long enough.
After you’ve given some wait time, model the word for the kid . Ask “do you want the car? car!? ”.The mode of communication has to be used which is selected for your child , that you want the child to use while you say it. Count to 10 in mind again. Wait time as the key.
If the kid still doesn’t say/sign/push/point to the word, go ahead and model the word for the kid again then provides it to him. Never forget to appreciate the child, it can be verbal praises or clapping hands or offering any items that your child loves if the child communicate in desired form.

Step Five: Be Patient
These are the basic steps. You simply got to keep doing this until the kid is in a position to use that method of communication. If you’ve done this for a short time on a particular word with no luck, try a special word and are available back to the present one. Just keep trying, eventually he could also be able to communicate to you.
Key point to remember is that, learning a new skill takes time so once they understand the power to communicate, they will be highly motivated and will see wonderful changes in their behaviors.