A Strong Interest in Technology Can Be Used to Teach Functional Communication Skills

Children with autism may have limited interests which can severely limit opportunities to actually TEACH them to request. Without specific teaching, it is unlikely that these children will learn HOW to request (Shafer, 1994).

So teachers, what can we use to provide teaching opportunities?


Computers, DVD players, iPods, iPads, iPhones………….Let’s change the way we USE these highly reinforcing items.  The following video illustrates how this can be done with a vocal and non-vocal learner.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. CONTRIVE motivation by providing a brief period of free access to the reinforcer –
  • Pushing “play” on the DVD player
  • Showing a favorite character picture on an iPhone
  • Playing a portion of a favorite song on an iPod
  • Showing 20 seconds of a favorite Youtube video on an iPad

*Remember – YOU have control of the device!

  1. Next, BLOCK access –
  • Push “pause” on the DVD player blocking access to seeing the movie
  • Remove the iPhone from the child’s view blocking access to seeing the next picture
  • Push “pause” on the iPod blocking access to hearing the song
  • Push “pause” on the iPad blocking access to viewing the Youtube video
  1. PROMPT specific request –
  • Wait for child to show motivation for continued access to activity
  • Say/Sign specific item name so child can echo or imitate.
  • Provide another period of brief access to the reinforcer upon request

You’re ready to do it again! Continue to provide more teaching opportunities!

Visit our friends at www.thepuzzlingpiece.com for details on how you can earn a free iPad!  While you are there, check out the inspiring story of the mom who started it all!

Let us know how you use technology to teach children to request!


Buckley, S. D., & Newchok, D. K. (2005). Differential impact of response effort within a response chain on use of mands in a student with autism. Research in developmental disabilities, 26(1), 77-85.

Shafer, E. (1994). A review of interventions to teach a mand repertoire. Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 12, 53-66.

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2 comments on “A Strong Interest in Technology Can Be Used to Teach Functional Communication Skills

  1. Moronke

    Thanks ffor the tutorial. Is this method only applicable to kids with autism? I was thinking if older kids with EBD can benefit from it.

  2. Thomas Caffrey Post author

    The principles are not disability specific and apply across settings and people!

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