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FCT
Functional Communication Training

It's important to note, that difficult and challenging behaviour is not always an environmental issue. More often than not, it is triggered by sensory overload, physical or mental problems.

Difficulty in communicating is a significant characteristic of individuals on the autistic spectrum. For many, particularly when they are younger, failure to accurately communicate their needs can mean that they're not met.

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It's important to note, that difficult and challenging behaviour is not always an environmental issue. More often than not, it is triggered by sensory overload, physical or mental problems.

This frequently leads to frustration, triggering a meltdown or similar inappropriate behaviour. A number of approaches have been developed to help people with communication difficulties (including those with autism). One of these is Functional Communication Training (FCT). Here we take a look at FCT, including consideration of who might benefit from it, who can help deliver it, how it can help and what other sorts of communication training are available.

What is FCT?

At its most basic, FCT consists of looking at an inappropriate method of communication (for example, having a meltdown at mealtimes), and trying to work out what the message behind

the meltdown is. This may involve considerable trial and error, particularly if the individual is non-verbal. Once it's clear what the message is, work is then done to introduce a different, more acceptable method of communicating the message, replacing the need for a meltdown or other Behaviour of Concern (BOC). Selecting the alternative communication method is a challenge, as it must be a behaviour that can be learned, as well as being one that others can understand and respond to.

Who might benefit from FCT?

FCT is suitable for any individual who has difficulty in communicating their needs, and who subsequently resorts to unsuitable or inappropriate behaviour in order to get their message across. It's particularly helpful for non-verbal individuals, or those who have predictable triggers. FCT only works if the alternative behaviour accurately communicates the message. Identifying what the reason behind inappropriate behaviour may be complex, particularly if someone has additional health or behavioural needs that may impact on their ability to communicate.

Who can help to delivery FCT

One of the key requirements of FCT is that it is delivered consistently across all settings. For example, if a parent has set up a communication behaviour as a substitute for a BOC (such as training an individual to point to their cup rather than throwing it when they want a drink), it's vital that staff at school, or in a daycare or residential setting, also understand what the message is and respond to it. Teachers, teaching assistants, nursery workers, respite care workers, friends, and the rest of the family can all play a key role in reinforcing the FCT.

How can FCT help?

Used correctly and consistently, FCT can help to eliminate some of the more challenging or inappropriate behaviour that people living with autism may use if they can't communicate more effectively. FCT won't work in all cases, so is best used in conjunction with other methods in order to achieve the best results.

What other communication improvement methods are there?

There is a wide range of other communication strategies and methods available, including: Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), which may also include EIBA (Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention); Social Stories; and Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT).

Read how our programme can help you

FCT can be used as a sole intervention, although it shows more promise in conjunction with other behavioural programmes such as positive behaviour supports

By teaching functional responses, challenging behaviours are then eliminated or reduced. Functional Communication Training is a useful tool across all ages and regardless of cognitive and communicative abilities. FCT not only relies on verbal communication, but may also include gestures, sign language, or the use of pictures and icons, such as a picture exchange communication system (PECS). With these increased skills in everyday communication, we extend a person's positive engagement and overall quality of life.

How it works

Once a detailed functional assessment of the persons challenging behaviour has been completed the intervention follows chief strategies;

  • deciding on a more appropriate and functionally equivalent communication alternative which is socially acceptable
  • systematically teaching the new communication skill
  • reinforcing positive behaviour when the new skill is used
  • ignoring the challenging behaviour when it occurs
  • prompting or reminding the person to use the new skill when appropriate
  • shaping the communication skill systematically towards independence and increase tolerance and understanding

 

FCT
Functional Communication Training

It's important to note, that difficult and challenging behaviour is not always an environmental issue. More often than not, it is triggered by sensory overload, physical or mental problems.

Difficulty in communicating is a significant characteristic of individuals on the autistic spectrum. For many, particularly when they are younger, failure to accurately communicate their needs can mean that they're not met.

This frequently leads to frustration, triggering a meltdown or similar inappropriate behaviour. A number of approaches have been developed to help people with communication difficulties (including those with autism). One of these is Functional Communication Training (FCT). Here we take a look at FCT, including consideration of who might benefit from it, who can help deliver it, how it can help and what other sorts of communication training are available.

What is FCT?

At its most basic, FCT consists of looking at an inappropriate method of communication (for example, having a meltdown at mealtimes), and trying to work out what the message behind

the meltdown is. This may involve considerable trial and error, particularly if the individual is non-verbal. Once it's clear what the message is, work is then done to introduce a different, more acceptable method of communicating the message, replacing the need for a meltdown or other Behaviour of Concern (BOC). Selecting the alternative communication method is a challenge, as it must be a behaviour that can be learned, as well as being one that others can understand and respond to.

Who might benefit from FCT?

FCT is suitable for any individual who has difficulty in communicating their needs, and who subsequently resorts to unsuitable or inappropriate behaviour in order to get their message across. It's particularly helpful for non-verbal individuals, or those who have predictable triggers. FCT only works if the alternative behaviour accurately communicates the message. Identifying what the reason behind inappropriate behaviour may be complex, particularly if someone has additional health or behavioural needs that may impact on their ability to communicate.

Who can help to delivery FCT

One of the key requirements of FCT is that it is delivered consistently across all settings. For example, if a parent has set up a communication behaviour as a substitute for a BOC (such as training an individual to point to their cup rather than throwing it when they want a drink), it's vital that staff at school, or in a daycare or residential setting, also understand what the message is and respond to it. Teachers, teaching assistants, nursery workers, respite care workers, friends, and the rest of the family can all play a key role in reinforcing the FCT.

How can FCT help?

Used correctly and consistently, FCT can help to eliminate some of the more challenging or inappropriate behaviour that people living with autism may use if they can't communicate more effectively. FCT won't work in all cases, so is best used in conjunction with other methods in order to achieve the best results.

What other communication improvement methods are there?

There is a wide range of other communication strategies and methods available, including: Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), which may also include EIBA (Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention); Social Stories; and Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT).

Read how our programme can help you

FCT can be used as a sole intervention, although it shows more promise in conjunction with other behavioural programmes such as positive behaviour supports

By teaching functional responses, challenging behaviours are then eliminated or reduced. Functional Communication Training is a useful tool across all ages and regardless of cognitive and communicative abilities. FCT not only relies on verbal communication, but may also include gestures, sign language, or the use of pictures and icons, such as a picture exchange communication system (PECS). With these increased skills in everyday communication, we extend a person's positive engagement and overall quality of life.

How it works

Once a detailed functional assessment of the persons challenging behaviour has been completed the intervention follows chief strategies;

  • deciding on a more appropriate and functionally equivalent communication alternative which is socially acceptable
  • systematically teaching the new communication skill
  • reinforcing positive behaviour when the new skill is used
  • ignoring the challenging behaviour when it occurs
  • prompting or reminding the person to use the new skill when appropriate
  • shaping the communication skill systematically towards independence and increase tolerance and understanding

 

Our behavioural therapy programs can reduce the impact of ADHD, ODD and behavioural issues. Find out how Autism Adelaide can help overcome these issues.

To get the most benefit out of intervention programs to help you or your child, speak with our Senior Behavioural Therapist and Clinical Director, Crystel Dix. Crystel's qualifications and lived experience can work with you to achieve measurable goals for your child.

Up to 65% of children with autism do not develop the skills to communicate effectively

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