Why Teach Communication?

boy at a computer in a classroom

Impairments in the development of communication skills significantly impact every aspect of an individual's ability to learn and function; therefore, addressing communication is a crucial part of educating any student with ASD. We begin learning to communicate as very young infants and continue to build on our skills as we move through life. Every interaction we have helps us to refine our skills and to be more effective communicators. For those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), learning to communicate and to use language effectively can be a challenge. One of the first signs and often most pervasive features of ASD is related to difficulties with expressive and receptive communication. Impairments in the development of communication skills significantly impact every aspect of an individual's ability to learn and function; therefore, addressing communication is a crucial part of educating any student with ASD.


Impairment in Communication is a Characteristic of ASD

  • Every student identified with an autism spectrum disorder will experience communication difficulties.
  • The ability to both understand and to use communication will vary considerably.
  • Those with extensive language generally have deficits in the area of pragmatics, which is the use of social language.
  • Communication skills can range as depicted below:

Communication skills range from being nonverbal, to using single
     	  words, to using phrases, to exhibiting typical speech and language
          (with deficits in pragmatics), to advanced language skills with
          deficits in pragmatics.

Communication is an Essential Life Skill


Learning to communicate and enhancing skills is considered to be a profound and indisputable individual right.

  • Learning to communicate and enhancing skills is considered to be a profound and indisputable individual right.
  • In the past, educators rarely addressed the communication needs of their students with ASD.
  • Now, it is widely regarded that communication should be a primary goal.
  • Building communication skills empowers students to:
    • Have basic wants met
    • Share information
    • Ask questions
    • Interact with others
  • Communication is a goal so valuable that every student, regardless of ability, will warrant instruction to continue building skills throughout his or her educational career.

When we change our mindset and think of communication as a student's individual right, it becomes a reasonable and achievable focus, one which carries with it access to appropriate assessment and interventions for every student and moves a student to better outcomes and a higher quality of life.

Now that you have learned WHY communication MUST be taught, please proceed to the section on WHAT TO TEACH or HOW TO ADDRESS COMMUNICATION.