Autism Communication Temptation

Some students without language, especially Children with Autism, suffer from apraxia, or difficulty with making sounds.  It may be a fine motor issue or it may be the fact that children with Autism lack joint attention, and are not practicing vocalizing from infancy on.  Some children may have chronic hearing problems from ear infections.  Whatever the source, children with difficulty producing language

need to pair, in their minds, the relationship between the noises they make with their mouths, and communication, especially using communication to get what they want.  This is known as “manding” in Verbal Behavioral Analysis (VBA.)

The purpose of “Communication Temptation” is to pair communication with verbal sounds.  It could easily be paired with a picture exchange system for children who need to be learning to communicate but are struggling with vocalizing.  A PECS system will  support communicative intent, but using Communication Temptation will start to pair communication with vocalization.

Communication Temptation was developed by Weatherby and Prizant as a method to encourage young children with language difficulty to generate language independently.  It is much like “sabotage” used to create more situations where children want to use language to communicate, especially to “mand” or request.  Some suggested scenarios include:

  1. Eat one of the student’s preferred food items without offering any to him/her. Give only a small amount when the request is made, to encourage repeated requests.
  1. Offer a non-preferred food item to elicit a protest.
  2. Open a jar of bubbles, blow bubbles, and close the jar tightly,  Hand the closed jar to the student and wait for a request. 
  3. Activate a wind-up toy; let it deactivate and then hand it to the student. .
  4. Initiate a favorite social activity with the student (tickles, tossing up in the air, etc.) until they express pleasure.  Stop and wait for an request to continue.
  5. Set up a game, leaving out one important part ( dice, spinner, game piece) and say, “let’s play.
  6. Blow up a balloon and slowly deflate it. Hand the deflated balloon to the student or hold the deflated balloon up to your mouth and wait for the student to make a request
  7. Set up a craft activity without glue, brushes or paints. Wait for a request.
  8. Start putting a puzzle together but keep a piece, so that there is one missing at the end.
  9. Choose a preferred item and place it in a clear container so they have to request the item.
  10. At recess, tell the student they can go outside to play, but leave the door locked, or make sure it is locked when the recess/lunch bell goes.

The Autism Partnership,  an ABA Therapy Practice with offices around the world, have expanded the practice to pairing the request with an utterance.  When a child wants something, they can bring a  PECs card, or (if you are working on speech because they are able to imitate) they can point and attempt an approximation.   With you students who suffer from apraxia, you will want to ask for a sound from the word that is easy for the child to produce, such as the explosive “P” or the tongue “dancer”  “T”(per Lively Letters.)


Johnny brings the Gold Fish Cracker card.  Teacher says:  “So, you want the Fish Crackers, Johnny?  Say “F”.  Teacher models sound.   Johnny says  “ffff” or ‘vvvv” (an approximation.”  Teacher says “Good job, Johnny.  Have a ffffffish cracker (model sound again.) Teacher hands Johnny the crackers (no more than three, so he has to say fff again.) immediately.

Sally has poorly formed utterances.  She brings a favorite toy sealed  in a large refrigerator container.  Sally hands the teacher the container.  The Teacher asks:  “What do you want, Sally?  Do you want me to Open the box?  Say ‘Open,’ Sally.”   Sally says “Oppep,”  Teacher responds, “Yes, Sally OPEN.  Good talking! (We are reinforcing an approximation.  This is called shaping.)

This method was modeled for me by a student teacher who worked for several years as a therapist for the Autism Partnership.  She tells me it unlocked speech for a number of her clients, and I am eager to get my students who are beginning to use PECs and are beginning to vocalize to ask for preferred items. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *