Functional Communication Training (FCT)

What is FCT?

Functional Communication Training (FCT) focuses on supporting a student's communication and behavior within the natural environment by replacing challenging or less conventional forms of communication with more appropriate forms through prompting, shaping and reinforcement.

The focus is "functional", not structured drill. Therefore, the team looks at the forms the student uses to communicate, as well as the functions they serve, and determines appropriate replacement forms that are developmentally appropriate and are efficient for the student to demonstrate.

How to Implement FCT

  • Collect data on the forms the student uses to communicate and the functions they serve.
  • Decide which forms are most problematic.
    • These can be targeted through FCT and determine replacement forms that are more appropriate, but still within the student's ability to produce.
    • This will involve identifying next-step forms that are reasonable and realistic.
  • A good place to start is by looking at forms that the student is already using, but are unreliable, prompt-dependent, or infrequent.
    • For students who are pre-symbolic, this might include:
      • Natural gestures (e.g., reaching/pointing to indicate a choice, waving hi/bye, holding out hand for stop, etc.)
      • Giving an object to request help
      • "All done" bin or pushing items away to escape non-preferred activities
      • Vocalizing to gain attention
    • For students who are symbolic, this might include:
      • "All done" bin or pushing items away to escape non-preferred activities
      • Giving break card or skip card to escape non-preferred activities
      • Using a picture-based communication device to request preferred items/activities
      • Using a script to gain attention (e.g., "Play with me", "Come here", etc.) or escape non-preferred tasks (e.g., "I need a break")

Once potential target forms are identified, they should be introduced slowly, one at a time, to avoid overwhelming and confusing the student. Each new form must be carefully taught and practiced throughout the day.

Teaching new behaviors requires repetition and immediate reinforcement across multiple individuals and environments.

More detailed information about FCT can be found on the Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM) External link opens in new window or tab..


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