Analyzing the Communication Environment to Increase Functional Communication

Charity Rowland, Philip Schweigert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Many students with severe and multiple disabilities demonstrate severe communication impairments. Efforts to improve communication in these students often embrace a “natural environment” or “milieu” approach, embedding opportunities to communicate within natural, functional activities across the entire schedule of daily activities. In reality, functional activities differ greatly in the degree to which they foster communication. This article describes an environmental inventory designed to allow a teacher or speech-language pathologist to analyze the extent to which a specific activity encourages functional communication for a particular student. The inventory may be used to compare different activities across the student's day or to track the improvement of specific activities that initially may show little communicative value for the student. Reliability and validity data for the inventory are presented along with a case study of its use to monitor and guide improvements in a functional activity to increase communication by a young child with multiple disabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-176
Number of pages16
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993


  • assessment
  • children
  • communication assessment and training
  • cues (natural)
  • ecology
  • language assessment and intervention
  • natural environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Health Professions
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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