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Communication Temptations


Do you have a student with autism who has limited communication skills? Do you have a student who speaks but seldom approaches you to make a request or ask a question? Do you have a student who is very passive or prompt dependent?

Performance deficits in the area of communication and initiation are common in students with ASD. Some have the ability to say words and even answer questions, but seldom use words appropriately to express their wants and needs.

If the student in your class meets this description, you can create opportunities to initiate communication by using a technique often called “communication temptations”.

Creating “communication temptations” are procedures that have been described by Wetherby and Prizant (1989). Many authors in the areas of early childhood development and autism advocate these procedures as a means of encouraging children to communicate with others.

Communication Temptations are designed to:

  • Increase the student’s desire to communicate
  • Make communication fun and interesting for the student
  • Show the student the power of communication
  • Increase opportunities for spontaneous (unprompted) use of language
  • Help students understand when and where they can communicate

Note: Communication temptations should never be used in ways in which they might provoke extreme distress or a “melt down”.

Try the following communication temptations with your student. Don’t forget to help him at first, so he knows what you expect him to do!

Try the following communication temptations with your student. Don’t forget to help him at first, so he knows what you expect him to do!

Give a little

Instead of giving the child a lot of what he wants, only give a little. This encourages language such as more, again, want ______, etc.

Control accessibility

If the child can’t access the item he wants independently, it encourages him to use words like help, please, open, want _____, etc.

Create an oversight

Hand the child one sock instead of two, forget the spoon he needs to eat his soup. This tempts use of the appropriate labels and even questions, such as where spoon?, need sock, etc.

Create novelty

Surprise or humour can often encourage language. Put a sock on a hand instead of a foot, call things by incorrect labels… the child is tempted to correct you with language like not my hand, or need mitt!

Use the power of the pause

Books with repeated lines are a great way to have kids learn to use words… pause just before you read the repeated phrase to encourage the child to say it. Or point to pictures in a book and say, “I see a ________ ” to encourage labelling.

The key to using communication temptations well, is to know what your student likes! The more opportunities you can provide for him to practice specific words (e.g., “more” (cookies, tickles, juice, stories, etc.) the better the chances of success!

For more information on techniques you can use to improve a child’s motivation to communicate, check out the following books:

It Takes Two To Talk: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Communicate 1st Edition

More Than Words: Helping Parents Promote Communication and Social Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder unknown Edition

TalkAbility: People Skills for Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum – A Guide for Parents First Edition