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Developing Communication Skills

Cause and Effect

Understanding ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ is an important stage of development. It involves understanding the connection between an action and a consequence.

Cause and effect begins early in development when a child learns to influence their environment. For example, looking at and reaching for their cup then looking at their parent, and repeating this until their action (looking and reaching) results in the consequence (being given their drink). It is an intentional action.

Why is an understanding of ‘cause and effect’ important?

Understanding cause and effect is the foundation for communicating intentionally. Some children with complex physical and communication difficulties need support to help them learn about cause and effect and generalise this skill.

One way we support children to develop an understanding of cause and effect is by introducing them to toys or activities that they can operate by using an external switch. This gives them control so that they can independently make the toy or activity happen again. For children with complex physical disabilities it is particularly important that they understand that they can have control and make things happen.

Understanding cause and effect is important for future learning. It is an essential part of communication and a prerequisite for many learning experiences such as making choices. Development of cause and effect encourages children to be proactive and less passive and have influence over their environment. It is also essential before a child learns to use any AAC.

Edie is exploring the best way to operate a switch. She has enjoyed some cause and effect activities on the computer; when she presses the switch with her foot the picture on the screen changes.

Edie opperating a switch

Lochlann has been operating some cause and effect toys. This toy plays some music and spins around inside.

Lochlann using cause and effect toys

Ryan is using a LittleMack to make requests such as ‘Sing me a song’. It is helpful to explore as many different activities as possible to develop an understanding of cause and effect.

Ryan using a LittleMack
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