Facilitating Effective Communication

General Principles: Communication develops best when we are actively engaged with people, objects, and activities in our environment. A language learning environment is rich with opportunities for both receiving and expressing information about our surroundings.  Experiences which promote listening and observing form the basis for language comprehension and are equal in importance to those which promote expression - both verbal and non-verbal.

Language comprehension and expression may develop at different rates in different people. Some children's ability to understand what is said to them and to produce verbal/non-verbal language may be at the same level. Some children are able to understand much more than they can express verbally or non-verbally.

In learning to comprehend language, some children may utilize what they hear as a primary learning source. Others may learn best from a combination of sensory input, hearing, seeing, touching, etc. As a general rule, it is best to provide a language-rich environment that supports multi-sensory learning and multidimensional communication.

In supporting the development of expressive communication, particularly in persons with developmental disabilities, we must be aware of the non-verbal techniques that are utilized in effective communication. They may include:

  • Eye contact
  • Natural body language
  • Changes in tone of voice, indicating pleasure, distress, or anger, etc.
  • Facial expressions
  • Body movements (posture, etc.)
  • Simple gestures (pointing, reaching, waving)
  • Behavioral changes (variations in daily patterns of eating, sleeping, etc; changes in mood, affect, temperament)
  • Sign language
  • Picture communication boards
  • Computerized communication systems

Your skills in listening and observing are critical in three ways:
  1. Validating the person's communication mode
  2. Understanding and responding to the person's message
  3. Facilitating and expanding the person's communicative experience

Funding for this program provided by the Department of Health and Human Services