how does functional communication training address problem behavior

How Functional Communication Training effectively reduces problem behavior in Education

Understanding Problem Behavior

Understanding Problem Behavior

Problem behavior can manifest in many ways, such as aggression, self-injury, property destruction, and noncompliance. These behaviors can be harmful to the individual engaging in them, as well as their caregivers and peers. While these behaviors can appear to be intentional, they are often the result of underlying communication challenges that individuals face.

For individuals with developmental disabilities, communication can be a significant challenge that impacts their ability to express themselves and engage with their environment. Without effective communication skills, individuals may resort to problem behavior as a way to express their needs or desires.

For example, a child with autism who is unable to communicate their need for a break from a loud and overwhelming environment may resort to physical aggression. Or, a teenager with Down syndrome who is unable to express their desire for more independence may engage in noncompliant behaviors as a way to assert their autonomy.

Functional communication training (FCT) aims to address these underlying communication challenges by teaching individuals new ways to express themselves in more appropriate and effective ways.

How does Functional Communication Training address problem behavior?

Functional Communication Training addressing problem behavior

Functional Communication Training is used as a behavior intervention approach by many professionals and caregivers. It has been proven to be effective in improving and managing problem behavior in a wide range of individuals, including those with special needs, developmental disabilities, and mental health conditions.

The process of FCT is based on identifying the function of the problem behavior. This means understanding what the individual is trying to communicate through their actions or words. Once the function of the behavior is known, caregivers can teach the individual more appropriate and effective ways of communicating their needs and wants without resorting to problem behavior.

The first step in FCT is to teach the individual an alternative response that achieves the same goal as the problem behavior. For example, if an individual throws objects when they want attention, the caregiver can teach them to use an appropriate gesture or verbalization instead. The second step is to reinforce the alternative response, ensuring that the individual receives the desired item or attention as a result of their new communication method.

The reinforcement phase is essential to FCT. Caregivers must consistently reward the individual’s appropriate communication to replace problem behavior effectively. Over time, the individual will learn that communicating appropriately yields better results than resorting to the old, problematic communication style.

FCT is compatible with numerous forms of reinforcement, such as verbal praise, access to preferred rewards, or physical touch. As the individual becomes more comfortable with the alternative method of communication, caregivers may gradually decrease the frequency and intensity of reinforcement.

FCT can be implemented in a variety of settings, including schools, group homes, hospitals, and homes. It is an individualized and flexible approach that can accommodate different problem behaviors and communication needs. Caregivers should work closely with professionals and/or an FCT trainer to develop a personalized plan appropriate for the individual’s unique needs and goals.

Overall, FCT is an effective and valuable approach that can help individuals replace problem behavior with appropriate communication. It is an approach that prioritizes communication and fosters healthy relationships between individuals and their caregivers or support team.

The FCT Process

FCT Process

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a widely-used behavior management approach that aims to address problem behavior in individuals. Through this process, individuals with communication challenges are taught to use appropriate communication skills as an alternative to displaying problem behavior.

The FCT process is an essential tool that helps individuals communicate effectively and overcome problematic behavior. The process consists of several stages, including identifying the problematic behavior, determining the underlying communication challenge, creating a communication plan, and implementing the plan.

Identifying the Problematic Behavior

Identifying Problematic Behavior

Before any action can be taken to tackle the problematic behavior, it’s necessary to identify and define it accurately. The behaviors that are likely to need attention include those that the individual may struggle to control, disrupt learning and social interactions, or put them or others at risk. By careful observations and data recording, the team implementing the FCT process can determine the frequency, intensity, and duration of the problem behavior. The data recorded will help the team monitor progress and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention strategies.

Determining the Underlying Communication Challenge

Underlying Communication Challenge

Once the problematic behavior is identified, the next step is to determine the underlying communication challenge responsible for that behavior. Individuals expressing problematic behavior might be doing so to communicate something or express their need or discomfort. The challenge is to determine what precisely they are trying to communicate. A Functional Analysis Assessment (FAA) is a procedure that can be used to evaluate the possible functions of the behavior, including access to tangibles, attention, escape from demands or situations, or automatic reinforcement. Once the function is identified, the team designs strategies that respond to that communication need.

Creating a Communication Plan

Creating a Communication Plan

Once the problematic behavior and the underlying communication challenge are identified, the team then develops a communication plan based on the information collected. The communication plan aims to help the individual replace the problematic behavior with appropriate communication skills that meet their needs effectively. These skills may include using vocalizations, gestures, signs, or augmentative communication devices such as picture exchange communication systems. The FCT communication plan is developed based on the evidence-based practices that the individual responds to most favorably, ensuring the most successful outcome.

Implementing the Plan

Implementing the Plan

The final step in the FCT process is to implement the communication plan. The plan must be part of the individual’s daily routines, and all stakeholders, including caregivers, teachers, and family members, should be aware of it. It is crucial to monitor the progress consistently and adjust the plan when necessary to avoid potential regression.

The FCT process is a vital tool that helps individuals overcome problematic behavior by teaching them essential communication skills. By identifying the problematic behavior, determining the underlying communication challenge, creating a communication plan, and implementing the plan, individuals can communicate effectively and reduce problematic behavior, improving their quality of life.

The Benefits of Functional Communication Training

Benefits of FCT

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a behavioral intervention that aims to address problem behavior by teaching individuals functional communication skills. This approach has been shown to be effective in reducing problem behavior and improving communication skills in individuals with a range of disabilities and developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injury. Here are some of the key benefits of FCT:

1. Targeted Intervention

FCT is a targeted intervention that focuses on addressing the individual’s specific communication needs and problem behaviors. This approach is tailored to the individual’s unique strengths, needs, and preferences, allowing for a more personalized approach to intervention. By targeting the specific communication skills that are most relevant to the individual’s daily life, FCT can help to improve communication and reduce problem behavior more effectively than a one-size-fits-all approach.

2. Evidence-Based

FCT is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to be highly effective in improving communication and reducing problem behavior in individuals with a variety of disabilities and developmental disorders. Research studies have consistently found that FCT produces significant improvements in communication skills and reductions in problem behavior. This evidence base gives practitioners and caregivers confidence in the effectiveness of the intervention and can help to motivate them to implement it consistently.

3. Teach Communication Skills

FCT is an intervention that focuses on teaching individuals functional communication skills. This means that instead of simply reducing problem behavior, the focus is on teaching the individual more appropriate ways to communicate their wants and needs. By teaching functional communication skills, individuals are better equipped to express themselves in a way that is socially acceptable and effective, which can improve their quality of life and reduce frustration and anxiety.

4. Personalized Reinforcement

FCT utilizes personalized reinforcement strategies to incentivize individuals to use their new communication skills. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be a highly effective way to shape behavior, and the use of personalized reinforcement can make the intervention more engaging and motivating for the individual. By using rewards that are personally meaningful to the individual, such as access to a favorite hobby or activity, practitioners and caregivers can create a strong incentive for the individual to use their new communication skills.

5. Collaboration and Generalization

FCT is an intervention that emphasizes collaboration between caregivers and practitioners. This approach recognizes that communication occurs in many different contexts, so it is important to generalize the skills learned in therapy to real-world situations. By involving caregivers in the intervention process and helping them to generalize the skills learned in therapy to different settings, FCT can help to ensure that the individual continues to use their new communication skills in a variety of settings.


Functional Communication Training is a highly effective intervention that can help to address problem behavior and improve communication skills in individuals with a range of disabilities and developmental disorders. By targeting specific communication needs, using evidence-based strategies, teaching functional communication skills, utilizing personalized reinforcement, and prioritizing collaboration and generalization, FCT provides a comprehensive and personalized approach to intervention.

What is FCT and How Does it Help?

FCT communication

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a behavioral intervention that focuses on replacing problem behaviors with effective communication skills. This approach is based on the principle that problem behavior is often a result of a lack of communication skills, and that when individuals are taught appropriate ways to communicate their needs and wants, problem behaviors decrease.

For students in an educational setting, FCT can be an effective tool for addressing problem behavior and promoting positive behavioral change. FCT utilizes a number of strategies to achieve these goals, including teaching students how to use appropriate language, providing reinforcement for positive behaviors, and creating a supportive learning environment.

Identifying Communication Needs

communication needs identification

Before implementing FCT, it is important to identify the specific communication needs and deficits of each student. This may involve conducting a functional assessment to determine the underlying reasons for problem behavior, such as a need for attention or escape from unpleasant situations.

Once communication needs have been identified, FCT can be tailored to address these needs in a way that is individualized to each student. This may involve developing a communication plan that outlines specific communication goals and strategies for achieving them, as well as providing ongoing support and training to ensure that students are able to make progress.

Teaching Communication Skills

teaching communication skills

One of the key components of FCT is teaching students appropriate communication skills. This may involve using visual aids, such as pictures, symbols, or written words, to help students express themselves more effectively, or providing explicit instruction in social interaction skills, such as turn-taking, initiating conversations, and responding to others.

FCT also emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement to encourage positive behaviors and social interactions. This may involve providing verbal praise, tangible rewards, or other incentives for demonstrating effective communication skills or engaging in positive behaviors such as sharing, cooperating, and following directions.

Creating a Supportive Learning Environment

supportive learning environment

FCT is most effective when used in a supportive and positive learning environment. Teachers and other educators can create this type of environment by establishing clear expectations for behavior, providing positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior, and ensuring that the classroom is structured and organized to support positive interactions and social learning.

Other strategies that can support FCT implementation in the classroom include providing ongoing training and support to teachers and other staff, developing partnerships with parents and family members to ensure consistency and continuity of care, and promoting positive social interactions and group cohesion among all students.

Measuring Progress and Making Adjustments

measuring progress and making adjustments

Once FCT has been implemented, it is important to measure progress and make adjustments as needed. This may involve using data collection tools to track student performance and identify areas where additional support is needed, as well as making adjustments to the communication plan or teaching strategies to address any obstacles or challenges that arise.

FCT is an ongoing process, and it may take time and persistence to see significant improvements in communication skills and reduction in problem behaviors. However, with patience, consistency, and a supportive learning environment, FCT can be an effective tool for promoting positive behavioral change and helping students reach their full potential.

What is Functional Communication Training?

Functional Communication Training

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is an intervention approach designed to reduce problem behavior in individuals with communication challenges. It involves identifying the cause of the problem behavior, teaching the individual appropriate communication skills, and reinforcing these new skills to reduce the problem behavior.

How Does FCT Address Problem Behavior?

Problem Behavior

FCT addresses problem behavior by teaching individuals how to communicate effectively instead of using problem behavior to get what they want or need. For example, if a child is hitting others to get a desired object, FCT would teach the child to ask for the object instead. By teaching more appropriate communication strategies, the individual is less likely to engage in problem behavior.

How Does FCT Teach Communication Skills?

Communication Skills

FCT teaches communication skills in a variety of ways. One commonly used strategy is to provide the individual with a communication device, such as a picture board or tablet with a speech-generating app, to help them communicate effectively. FCT may also include teaching the individual how to use appropriate words and gestures to express themselves.

How Does FCT Reinforce New Skills?


FCT reinforces new communication skills by rewarding the individual for using them. For example, if a child asks for an object appropriately instead of hitting, they may receive the object they requested. By consistently reinforcing appropriate communication, the individual is more likely to continue using these skills in the future.

Who Benefits from FCT?

Who Benefits from FCT

FCT is beneficial for individuals with communication challenges who engage in problem behavior. This includes individuals with developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and other conditions that impact communication skills. FCT can also be beneficial for individuals without diagnosed disabilities who struggle with communication and problem behavior.



Functional Communication Training is a valuable intervention approach for individuals with communication challenges and problem behavior. By addressing the underlying causes of problem behavior, teaching effective communication skills, and reinforcing these skills, FCT can help individuals develop the social and communication skills they need to succeed in life.

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