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Some children with autism or social communication difficulties may appear to have age-appropriate language skills, but they have difficulty with “people skills.” This is because they find it challenging to develop and maintain relationships the way other children do.

Parents have a major role to play in helping their child learn people skills, which involve the ability to tune in to non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions, as well as the ability to consider other points of view and have empathy for others. As a parent, you can support your child’s development of “people skills”– and the TalkAbility™ Program shows you how.

About the program

TalkAbility is a program developed by The Hanen Centre for parents of young children (between ages four and seven) who struggle socially. The goal of the program is to enable parents to build their child's “people skills” at home. A Hanen-certified speech-language pathologist leads the program, which is offered to a small group of parents.

The speech-language pathologist guides you every step of the way, helping you learn specific, research-based interaction strategies that you can use in your daily interactions with your child. All these strategies are drawn from research and have been shown to improve the social communication skills of children on the autism spectrum.

By learning in a small group with other parents, you get support and input from people who understand what you are going through. Not only do you walk away from the program armed with strategies that are proven to improve your child's people skills, but you also gain a valuable support network of peers.

View Research Summary

Program Components

The Talkability Program takes place once a week over 13 weeks.

The program includes:

  • A pre-program consultation with the speech-language pathologist, which includes an assessment of your child and setting communication goals
  • Eight two and a half hour sessions for a small group of parents, led by the Hanen speech-language pathologist
  • Three individual video feedback sessions which take place between the group sessions for parents - you and your child are recorded while playing. Then you and the speech pathologist review and discuss the recording to see what’s working and how you can modify your use of the strategies to help your child
What you learn in a Talkability Program

When you join a TalkAbility Program, you learn:

  • How your child currently engages in conversation
  • The next steps that you can take to help your child have more balanced, 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 understand the meanings behind words
  • How to help your child tell stories and play imaginatively
  • How to help your child make friends
The TalkAbility telepractice program

The Hanen Centre has developed a telepractice version of the TalkAbility Program, which means the entire program is offered online. The telepractice model allows you to attend the program from the comfort of your own home and interact with your child in an environment familiar to him.

A telepractice program is similar to taking an online class. The parent-only sessions are live, and you log in to a videoconferencing software that makes it easy to interact with your speech-language pathologist and the other parents in the group.

There are separate video feedback sessions for just you and your child, when the speech pathologist records you interacting with your child while you apply the strategies you have learned. You and your speech-language pathologist then review and discuss the recording, which helps you identify what’s working well and what you can modify to help your child even more.

Technology needs

To participate in a telepractice program, you need the following equipment:

  • A computer, iPad or a tablet (smartphones and cell phones do not have a large enough screen)
  • Webcam and microphone
  • High speed internet
  • Email access
  • Adobe reader (free download)
  • Printer or scanner or photo capture and transfer (if you want to print out the handouts)

You can make a bigger difference to your child's social communication skills when you join a TalkAbility Program. Find a Hanen speech-language pathologist to guide you today.

If you aren't already working with a Hanen certified SLP, let us help you find one today.

Find a Hanen Certified SLP