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Functional Conversation Games
Ages: 9-Adult   Grades: 4-Adult         

This is the first-ever product to create a natural conversational flow—one of the most challenging tasks in therapy!


  • Increase appropriate conversational interactions
  • Enhance social skills
  • Develop flexibility in self-expression
  • Generalize conversation skills to real-world situations
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The games replicate natural conversational interactions.  Clients have choices and freedom in selecting topics, creating responses, determining the order of turns, and the amount of time for each topic.  The skills necessary for successful conversation—vocabulary, grammar, critical thinking and reasoning with social awareness, listener perspective, and nonverbal language are integrated into the games.

Functional Conversation Games consists of:

  1. A 40-page manual with directions, reproducible game boards and materials, and dozens of conversation prompts and supports.
  2. Three card decks are used to teach 25 conversational strategies.  Clients learn to express functional topics, ask questions, and give appropriate, specific comments.
  3. Deck 1 Conversation Topics: 200 topics in the themes of Friends & Family, Everyday Happenings, Special Occasions, and Fun & Make-Believe

    Deck 2 Communication Intents: 50 natural ways to introduce a topic and take-turns in conversation such as:

         - using scripted words and starter phrases
         - asking questions to clarify and seek information
         - retelling information
         - making comments 
         - offering an explanation
         - expressing an opinion

    Deck 3 Places & Events: each card lists an Everyday Place, an Everyday Event, and a Fun or Make-Believe Place or Event

Four games are provided in the manual, but the cards are designed to be used in any way that complements your therapy needs and you'll find many ways to incorporate the heavy-weight content into social language therapy.  The materials are useful for persons with:

  • expressive language and/or pragmatic (social) deficits
  • high-functioning autism including Asperger's
  • emotional impairments, mental illness, or behavior problems requiring improved social skills
  • mild developmental delays
  • neurological impairment resulting from stroke, brain injury, early dementia, or chemical dependency
  • auditory processing disorders


Copyright © 2011

40-page manual, 3 card decks (50 cards per deck), vinyl folder
  • Social-skills training programs need to be functional in their nature in order to generate carryover outside of the treatment room.  Using neurotypical peers in treatment to serve as peer role models allows for generalization of targeted social skills (Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2008).
  • Social/pragmatic language skills (e.g., turn taking, topic maintenance, and appropriate question asking) allow a child with autism to fully participate in his school, home, and community.  Since deficits in pragmatic language can result in isolation and depression later on in life, frequent and relevant intervention in social communication throughout the child's school-age years is vital and should be a collaborative effort between the speech-language pathologist, teacher, and parents (Koegel, 2000).
  • Children with autism improved significantly more on their social skills competencies after group intervention focusing on engaging in conversation, sharing personal information, exploring common interests, negotiating compromise, and expressing emotions appropriately in comparison to children with autism who received no treatment (Cotugno, 2009).
  • Children with autism or language-learning disorders may lack appropriate vocabulary to discuss personal emotional states, along with difficulty interpreting others' emotional states which may result in negative peer interactions. Theory of mind tasks (including perspective taking) need to be directly addressed for pragmatic skills to develop in these clinical populations (Miller, 2006).

Functional Conversation Games incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Cotugno, A.J. (2009). Social competence and social skills training and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 39, 1268-1277.

Koegel, L.K. (2000). Intervention to facilitate communication in autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 30, 383-391.

Miller, C.A. (2006). Developmental relationships between language and theory of mind. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15, 142-154.

Rao, P.A., Beidel, D.C., Murray, M.J. (2008). Social skills interventions for children with Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism: A review and recommendations. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 38, 353-361.


Larry I. Kleiman


Larry I. Kleiman, M.A., CCC-SLP, received his undergraduate degree in Psychology from U.C.L.A.  While earning his degree, he first gained experience with individuals with developmental delays working with autistic children under the supervision of the late Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas.  After earning his master's degree in Communicative Disorders from California State University at Northridge in 1980, he joined a private practice and pursued a career as a speech-language pathologist evaluating and treating individuals with developmental delays.  Two and a half years later, he founded his own southern California private practice, Larry Kleiman and Associates.

Along with his staff of speech-language pathologists and audiologists, he specializes in serving individuals of all ages with developmental delays in residential, community, and clinical settings, including program development, consultation, assessment, and therapeutic intervention.  In recent years, services have expanded to early intervention and adult neurological disorders (acute and rehabilitative); however, a prime interest for more than 30 years has been individuals with autism spectrum disorders.  Larry is the author of the Functional Communication Profile (originally published in 1994) as well as the Functional Communication Profile Revised and the Functional Communication Profile Reporting Software.


Functional Conversation Games addresses pragmatic and expressive language, as well as creative and critical thinking abilities with an emphasis on conversational turn-taking.  The target population of these games is middle and high school students to adults who present the following deficits, syndromes, or characteristics:

  • expressive language and/or pragmatic (social) deficits
  • high-functioning autism spectrum, including Asperger's
  • emotional impairments requiring improved social skills
  • mild developmentally-delayed with conversation deficits
  • mental illness or behavior problems, such as schizophrenia, conduct disorder, and attention deficit disorders (ADD)
  • neurological impairment, including acquired or developmental aphasia
  • auditory processing disorders
  • neurological disorders due to stroke, early dementia, traumatic brain injury, brain tumors and surgery, or impact of chemical dependency

Although the games are appropriate for students 9 years of age and older, they can be easily adapted for therapy with adults.  See the Appendix for additional conversation topics that are particularly suited to adult participants.

Individuals with language and memory impairments and social disorders commonly exhibit weaknesses in pragmatic skills, such as conversational turn-taking.  They often need to be directly taught or retrained to implement appropriate conversational strategies, including the following:

  • introducing topics of mutual interest and expanded variety of content
  • requesting items or actions wanted or needed
  • answering questions in conversation
  • elaborating on a topic while maintaining the same topic
  • informing about himself or others
  • listening to and recalling the conversation of others
  • formulating questions to request more information or to clarify
  • commenting on others' statements
  • recalling and clearly expressing experiences and preferences
  • waiting for others to finish before entering a conversation
  • demonstrating specific word retrieval and appropriate vocabulary
  • sharing, as well as seeking, opinions, attitudes, approval, description, and ideas of others
  • expressing feelings
  • making suggestions or offering advice
  • acknowledging others and considering their perspectives or familiarity with content
  • expressing humor and creativity
  • using socially polite forms
  • repairing conversational breakdowns or misunderstandings
  • offering support or empathy
  • agreeing, but also disagreeing, without offending
  • commanding others
  • affirming or denying information or thoughts
  • predicting events or outcome
  • making plans
  • knowing when it is appropriate to close a topic or shift to a new topic

Functional Conversation Games are all played using a combination of these components:

  • reproducible materials
  • one deck of Conversation Topics cards
  • one deck of Places & Events cards
  • one deck of Communication Intents cards

The Conversation Topics cards contain 200 real and make-believe or pretend topics to facilitate topic introduction.  Each deck contains four Conversation Topics in these themes:

  • Friends & Feelings
  • Everyday Happenings
  • Special Occasions
  • Fun & Make-Believe

The Places & Events card deck contains 50 cards featuring Everyday Places, Everyday Events, and Fun & Make-Believe Places & Events.  Using these cards, students learn to express functional topics, questions, and comments that are specific and appropriate to the context of different places and situations, real or imagined.

The Communication Intents card deck contains 50 different ways to assist with topic introduction and turn-taking communication acts.  They include prompts to assist participants in expressing useful, common conversational reactions to sustain conversation.  These prompts provide cues for asking specific question types, expressing a personal opinion, or commenting on an aspect of a topic.

Functional Conversation Games are designed to replicate the kinds of natural interactions involved in conversation in ways that can be incorporated into therapy sessions.  The activities range from establishing simple interactions to complex expression of ideas, and aim to develop functional reactions to the conversation input of others.  The materials are based on my experiences during therapy sessions over the past 20 years.  Students and adult clients are more likely to participate in sessions when they have the impression they are "talking" rather than "working" in therapy.

In summary, Functional Conversation Games help create a natural conversational flow; participants are allowed choices and freedom in selecting topics, possible responses, order of turns, and even the time duration for each topic.  The games are intended to limit the constraints of self-expression, while offering guidance to build successful and meaningful conversations.

A few games are described in detail in the manual, but the cards are designed for you to use in any way that complements your therapy needs.  I've tried to provide a wide variety of contexts and possibilities for both initiating and extending conversations in one-on-one and group settings.  Have fun making up your own card games and activities, or work with your students to come up with novel ways of incorporating the materials into therapy time.