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Building Language for All Communicative Purposes – Requesting and Emotions

In the previous two blogs we’ve been learning about communicative purposes/functions such as rejecting and commenting as well as Greetings and Questions.

In this blog, we are going to learn about communicating to request and express emotions.


This is probably one of the most important skills  for an emergent communicator  to pick up because this helps them to get what they want. 


  1. Identify motivators for communication. It could be the communicator’s favourite activity, toy, or food item. It’s easier to work on requests when there is a clear motivation present.
  2. Create an environment replete with activities and items that are communication motivators.
  3. Put their favourite snack  in clear containers so that the communicator would request for help. Give food in a bowl without utensils. Keep their favourite blanket or hide one shoe when they are ready to go out. Make sure that the child does not get frustrated while sabotaging the environment to elicit requests.
  4. Acknowledge all request attempts and prompt if the communicator is unable to make an independent request. 
  5. Their desired toy/activity acts as a natural reinforcer but a praise can only add to their excitement.


Want, Need, More, This, That, Now, Give, Eat, Hungry, Play are some words that the communicator can use along with fringe vocabulary such as toy, cookie, TV, etc.

Expressing Feelings 

There is a wide range of emotions and communicators should be taught to identify these distinct emotions. When children don’t have the proper means to express their feelings, they may resort to challenging behaviours. It’s important that we teach them to understand and label their emotions. Once they are able to recognize their emotions, they can be taught coping strategies for when they feel overwhelmed with strong emotions.


  1. Use tools such as emotion wheel and games to help children identify and label emotions.
  2. Talk about your emotions throughout the day. Make sure you talk about negative emotions such as your anger, disappointment etc. This will encourage the communicators to discuss their negative emotions too.

        I got mad when I saw the messy table. 

        Talk about how you dealt with those emotions and tell the communicators they can do something similar too. 

        I just took a deep breath and listened to some music to calm myself down.  Once I was calm, I requested you to help me clean the table.

3. Storybooks are great resources to discuss emotions. Talk about the emotional journey of the characters in the story. Help communicators see the correlation between an event and an emotion.

       He’s happy because he won the game.

      She lost her teddy bear. She must be sad.

      Draw the communicator’s attention to facial expressions that convey the different emotions so that they can identify the emotions in people around them. This, in turn, helps them identify their own emotions. 

4. It’s important that AAC users have access to extensive vocabulary for the various emotions.  Some children may feel sad when they don’t get to do their favourite activity while others may get mad or feel disappointed about it.   Communicators should have access to quick phrases with which they can vent their feelings. Include phrases in their AAC systems for their coping mechanisms too so that they can communicate to others when they need to be left alone or that they don’t feel understood. 

       Get away from me

       I’m going to my room 

       I need a break now

       You’re not listening to me

       I’m frustrated 

       Something’s bothering me


happy, sad, frustrated, excited, disappointed, funny, great, mad, etc.

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog about communicative purposes. Please leave your feedback in the comment section below.

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