Functional communication is a term that describes the level of communication skill that is characteristic of persons with severe communication disabilities. Functional communication refers to basic communication behaviors that allow individuals to express their needs, wants, choices, and feelings. Communication is functional when an individual can produce sounds, symbols, or signs in a way that other persons can understand. Reciprocally, persons achieve functional understanding by processing a message that is heard, seen, or received tactilely.

For the caregivers, Speech–Language pathologists, and teachers of persons with significant communication needs, establishing a mechanism for functional communication is often a goal. Functional nonspeech communication includes visual, electronic, and manual communication systems.

Functional communication is important for children and adults in many disability populations. Children and adults who have complex ...

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