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TalkAbility — The Hanen Program® for Parents of Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum

Whether or not they have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, all children continue to develop their social communication skills in their preschool years. Around the age of 3, they use language to talk not only about the present, but about the past and the future, and also to problem solve. Their conversations sound more adult-like: they consider their partner’s interests by making a comment or asking a question about what the other person has said, and they listen to and look at their partner when he or she talks.

The early years are especially crucial for verbal children on the autism spectrum because they still face special communication challenges. Often, these children find it difficult to:

  • Have conversations with others
  • Play with children their own age
  • Talk about things that interest someone else
  • Change a routine without becoming frustrated

If you’ve noticed more than one of these difficulties in your child, the TalkAbility Program can help. Specifically designed for parents of verbal children ages 3-7 with social communication difficulties, the TalkAbility Program teaches parents practical ways to help their child learn people skills.You can also participate in this program online via telepractice.

By “people skills”, we mean the ability to “tune in” to the thoughts and feelings of others by paying attention to non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, eye gaze, and tone of voice. The ability to consider other points of view and to have empathy for others is essential for successful conversations and for making friends. Children with social communication difficulties require extra help to develop these skills.

When you take the TalkAbility Program, you’ll learn:

  • How your child carries on conversation and the next steps to take to help him have back-and-forth conversations
  • How to encourage your child to pay attention to the social messages people send non-verbally
  • How to talk so your child can tune in to what others are thinking
  • How to help your child tell stories and play imaginatively
  • How to help your child make friends

Program Components

  • Informative and personal classes for small groups of parents
  • A Hanen Certified speech-language pathologist who leads the program and has received special training from The Hanen Centre
  • A pre-program consultation for you and your child with your speech-language pathologist
  • Individual video feedback sessions of you interacting with your child, so you can “see” what is helping and what else you can do
  • Individual video feedback of your child playing with another child so you can “see” how you help their interaction

Program Resources

TalkAbility: People Skills for Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum – A Guide for Parents is the guidebook you’ll use throughout the program to reinforce what you learn and to provide you with fresh new ideas for interacting with your child to improve his skills.

After completing the program, you can keep coming back to this guidebook for ongoing support as new goals are set. With helpful checklists, the guidebook makes it easy to “zero in” on your child’s current strengths and weakness to figure out where he needs the most help.

Parents who are waiting to attend a program may purchase the guidebook in advance to give their learning a head start and to gain some practical strategies that they can start using with their child right away.

Learn more about the TalkAbility guidebook.

Benefits of Taking the TalkAbility™ Program


Practical strategies you can use in everyday situations

Because social skills have to be learned in real-life situations, the TalkAbility Program shows you how to use your natural, day-to-day life with your child to help him learn social skills. You’ll discover new ways to interact with your child during daily routines to help him take turns during conversations and understand the meanings behind words (i.e. all the subtle messages you send with facial expressions and body language).

TalkAbility translates the research on social communication development into concrete strategies that are easy for parents to understand and to build into their child’s daily routines. Since the program offers many opportunities for you to practice and discuss each strategy you learn, you’ll be comfortable and confident implementing them at home.

Here’s an example of a set of TalkAbility strategies you’ll learn during the program that will teach you how to talk to your child so that he can learn to have successful conversations:

Use your “I-Cues” to Keep the Conversation Going

This set of strategies is designed so that you can learn how to be a good conversation model for your child. By following your child’s lead, waiting for him to respond and cueing him to take his turn, you can help your child develop his conversation skills.


A research-based and reputable program that’s worth your time

The TalkAbility program was designed by expert speech-language pathologists who specialize in autism and other social communication difficulties. The program is grounded in extensive cutting-edge research that shows what works best for helping children who have social communication challenges.

For example, research shows that children who have conversations with parents about what others think and feel learn to appreciate different points of view. That’s why TalkAbility teaches you strategies for extending conversations with your child so that he has as much opportunity as possible to learn.

To view a detailed research summary and reference list for TalkAbility, click on the link below:

View Research Summary

TalkAbility requires a significant time commitment from parents in order to ensure the best possible learning experience. Once you’ve completed the program, however, the strategies you’ve learned will become such a natural part of the way you interact with your child that you won’t even notice you’re using them. The commitment you put in now will pay off during every interaction you have with your child.


A chance to connect with other parents

In a small, personalized group setting, the TalkAbility Program gives you the chance to connect with other parents in similar situations. Many parents gain valuable insight and encouragement by exchanging stories with people who really understand what they’re feeling.

What parents say about the TalkAbility™ Program

“After my child learned to talk, I didn’t know what to do next – I just knew he needed more help. The TalkAbility program gave me 1000 new ideas on how to help him progress to the next level, both in his conversation and play with other children. He still plays with the little boy he met through the program.
- Tracy, mother of Aiden

Finding a TalkAbility™ Program

TalkAbility Programs are offered by Hanen Certified Speech-Language Pathologists around the world. To find a program in your area, you can use this website to search for a Hanen Certified SLP or search for a Hanen Program.

Learn more about the online program

Find a Hanen SLP

Find a Hanen Program