Teaching Social Communication to Young Children with Severe Disabilities

Erik Drasgow, James W. Halle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to communicate in conventional ways is an essential component of any social endeavor. To convey strategies and considerations for establishing initial communication repertoires in young children with severe disabilities, we describe a case example of our work with Todd, a 4-year-old nonverbal child. The considerations include (a) that facilitating the development of conventional forms of communication in young nonverbal children begins with careful assessment and identification of existing unconventional forms, their associated functions, and the social and physical environmental factors that occasion communication; (b) that current forms can be used as behavioral indications for determining appropriate occasions for teaching new, conventional forms that serve the same function; (c) that teachable opportunities, signaled by the use of current forms, vary according to fluctuating learner motivation, which may be a function of social, biological, or environmental factors; (d) that unconventional forms may be displayed with greater generality than previously assumed. Finally, (e) to promote generalization of new forms, the application of general case instruction is recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-186
Number of pages23
JournalTopics in Early Childhood Special education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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