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Early Functional Communication Profile Set
Ages: 2-10   Grades: Toddler-5

Assess the pivotal preverbal communication skills children need to develop functional communication.   The Early Functional Communication Profile is sensitive to small, subtle changes in joint attention, social interaction, and communicative intent.

Test Set
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Early Functional Communication Profile FORMS (15)
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Test Purpose
The targeted skills are hallmarks of atypical development in the preverbal child.  The profile measures subtle, functional changes in nonverbal communication skills in children with severe disabilities along with larger gains in children with moderate disabilities.  Use it to gather information that will help determine a starting point in therapy and show progress over time.  

The Early Functional Communication Profile is appropriate to use with children who have:

  • suspected or diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • severe to profound cognitive impairments
  • coexisting disorders
  • augmentative and alternative communication

Test Description
The Early Functional Communication Profile is a criterion-referenced tool.  As such, it does not supply age or number scores.  The test's precise descriptive measures tell you what the child CAN do and how she responds to different types of prompts.

The assessment is dynamic—a hierarchy of prompts provides information about what skills the child performs with some degree of adult assistance.  Skills and the level of progress are delineated by:

  • developmental level—skills are arranged from easiest to hardest
  • level of environmental prompt—can be where the tester or test items are positioned (e.g., in front, to the side, or in back of the child); a gestural prompt (e.g., handing an object to the child, pointing); or verbal cues (e.g., saying "your turn," asking a question)     
  • level of adult-action prompt—subtle physical and visual prompts such as hand-over-hand, patting the chest or arm, waiting with hand reaching out, waiting expectantly, etc.


  • Joint Attention—Requesting Objects
  • Social Interaction—Turn-taking
  • Communicative Intent—Requesting Continuation of Actions
  • Communicative Intent—Requesting Assistance
  • Social Interaction—Response to Greetings
  • Joint Attention—Receptive Language
  • Communicative Intent—Protesting

Examiner Qualifications
The Early Functional Communication Profile is designed for use by professionals trained in recognizing early childhood developmental milestones, particularly in the area of communication.  This includes speech-language pathologists, psychologists, special education teachers, and early intervention specialists working with a pediatric population.


Test Procedures

  • The goal of testing is to find the child's highest level of response with the least amount of prompting.
  • Administer the subtests in any order, as long as you address each applicable communication area.
  • The test form is organized into columns.  Each column represents a different level of skill.  Skills increase in difficulty as you move left to right across the pages. 
  • Each subskill/column is further divided into a hierarchy of environmental and adult action prompts (listed on the test form).  The prompting level decreases as you move down the column (the tasks are performed with more independence).
  • Suggested starting levels are indicated on the test form or you can choose a different one if you think it is closer to the child's level.
  • If the child performs the desired skill, increase the difficulty by moving down the column (decreasing prompt level).
  • If the child does not perform the desired skill, increase the prompting level (by moving up the column) or move a column to the left (easier skill level).
  • Use high interest objects of your choosing for testing.  Low interest or nondesirable items are used to assess skill in protesting.  Suggestions for choosing materials are provided in the manual.
  • Provide ample opportunity to elicit skills.
  • A detailed explanation of each test item and each prompting level is in the examiner's manual.
  • Treatment goals and caregiver goals are listed for each skill area.

Testing Time

  • Generally 30-45 minutes

Test Scoring

  • Document mastered and emerging skills
    • A skill is considered mastered if the child consistently performs it three times at one difficulty level
    • A skill is considered emerging if the child inconsistently performs it one or two times
  • Highlight the level of performance and prompts boxes in the seven communication areas in color on the test form to give a quick visual representation of performance
  • The seven subtests are independent of each other so less highlighting on one communication area may not necessarily mean the child is lower on all communication areas
  • Credit is given for approximations and for various modes of communication
  • Items of less difficulty than the one mastered are considered mastered
  • Caregiver questionnaire is accepted when the child does not engage in testing
  • After highlighting level of performance and prompts in the seven communication areas, fill out the Summary Chart on the test form for a visual representation of mastered and emerging communication skills 

This test is criterion referenced, not a norm-referenced instrument.  Criterion-referenced tests compare the subject's mastery of the specified behaviors to the specified behaviors.  Such tests are designed to provide information for instruction, not to compare students with each other. 


Copyright © 2012

Test Set includes: examiner's manual, 15 profile forms
  • Speech-language pathologists are responsible for assessing and enhancing initiation of spontaneous communication in functional activities, comprehension of verbal and nonverbal communication across settings, and verbal and nonverbal means of communication (including natural gestures) in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (ASHA, 2006).
  • Neurotypical children frequently initiate acts of joint attention and produce typical gestures, resulting in caregivers providing rich verbal labels, which has shown to enhance children's early language development (Watt, Wetherby, & Shumway, 2006).
  • Children with ASD who received direct instruction in joint attention generalized these skills to new settings (Whalen & Schreibman, 2003).
  • For children with ASD, increasing a child's ability to initiate requests is linked with improved outcomes on overall communication and language skills (Woods & Wetherby, 2003).
  • Teaching gesture imitation skills leads to greater gains in language skills than teaching object imitation skills alone (Ingersoll & Lalonde, 2010).  Children with ASD who learned imitation skills showed gains in initiation of joint attention and social functioning (Ingersoll, 2011).

The Early Functional Communication Profile incorporates these priniciples and is also based on expert professional practice.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2006). Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders Across the Life Span [Position Statement]. Retrieved May 4, 2012, from

Ingersoll, B. (2011). Brief Report: Effect of a focused imitation intervention on social functioning in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1423-6

Ingersoll, B., & Lalonde, K. (2010). The impact of object and gesture imitation training on language use in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 1040-1051.

Watt, N., Wetherby, A., & Shumway, S. (2006). Prelinguistic predictors of language outcome at 3 years of age. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 1124-1237.

Whalen, C., & Schreibman, L. (2003). Joint attention training for children with autism using behavior modification procedures. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(3), 456-468.

Woods, J.J., & Wetherby, A.M. (2003). Early identification of and intervention for infants and toddlers who are at risk for autism spectrum disorder. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 34, 180-193.


Sharlet Lee Jensen


Sharlet Lee Jensen, M.S., CCC-SLP, received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Washington.  While earning her degree she treated young children with autism during a graduate internship at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Her interest in autism led to a career in early intervention, working in both home-based and classroom settings.  When most of the children on her caseload came with treatment plans that focused on developing first words and following simple instructions, she began to puzzle over why some children were easier to work with and made faster progress than others who were also nonverbal, finally settling on the dire importance of joint attention skills.

Sharlet initially developed and refined the Early Functional Communication Profile as a way to accurately determine realistic and measurable goals for her clients while simultaneously communicating progress to their families and treatment plans to the educational staff.  Since then, Sharlet has worked for school districts as both a Speech-Language Pathologist and Autism Consultant.  She currently works in private practice.  Early Functional Communication Profile is Sharlet's second publication with LinguiSystems, she is also the co-author of Figurative Language Card Games with Ellen Muench.