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Promoting Intentional Communication in Children with CCN: Matching Strategies to Potential Sources of Difficulty

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Learning to gesture or used aided AAC for intentional purposes seems simple until we see children who struggle with this skill. Many children with complex communication needs (CCN) develop communication through atypical strategies and face particular challenges at connecting their individual behaviors to results in social and communicative contexts. Sometimes listeners do not easily detect or interpret communication behaviors of children with any combination of physical, sensory, social, cognitive, or other developmental impairments. Sometimes children have difficulty associating their combination of voluntary and involuntary behaviors with the communicative effects in their environment. Sometimes children, particularly children with autism spectrum disorders, have difficulty generalizing their communication behaviors across contexts to build a consistent sense of their efficacy at getting their messages across to others. For all children with CCN, consistent, prompt, and spontaneous initiation of meaningful communication that is understood and responded to by partners is a lifelong process of balancing strategies and the results accomplished in communication with others. This presentation presents an intervention strategy suitable for working on intentional communication through all modalities, and then systematically addresses common difficulties that arise for children with CCN in each step of this strategy. We’ll use video examples of children with CCN who have various difficulties with pre-intentional communication, and problem solve about how our intervention can structure the child’s experiences to fill in missing pieces and help overcome these sources of difficulty.


Cynthia Cress    
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
United States


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