Building Communication in Young Autistic Children

For young autistic children, communication development happens differently and sometimes more slowly than other children. These children may have sensory, processing and/or motor planning differences that make it harder to communicate and to understand others.

It’s important to remember that every autistic child is unique, and each one has their own set of traits and strengths. At The Hanen Centre, we know that parents know their child better than anyone else. We also know that the research shows that when parents adapt their interactions to their child’s communication level, they can make a big difference in building their child’s social communication skills.

With this in mind, we developed two family-centred, research-based programs grounded in the following three principles:

  1. The pivotal role of parents and caregivers – Recognizing the family as the most important element in a child’s life means that parents can and should play a primary role in their child’s speech therapy intervention.

  2. The importance of starting early – Children who receive intervention early in their lives will have the best results.

  3. The power of the “everyday” – Children learn to communicate best not by being “taught”, but by participating in everyday conversations and activities with their parents and other important adults who know how to build communication during these activities.

Hanen Programs for Parents of Young Autistic Children

More Than Words®

More Than Words is an evidence-based early intervention program for parents of young autistic children or children who may benefit from social communication support (5 and under). Through a combination of small group training with other parents and individual coaching sessions with the parent, child and Hanen certified SLP, parents learn how to build their child’s social communication skills during everyday routines and activities. They also learn how to understand their child better while having more fun together during everyday routines and activities.

One of the greatest benefits of the More Than Words approach is that children receive the extra support they need throughout each day (not just while attending therapy sessions) and their learning is tied to the activities and interactions that are meaningful to them.

Learn more about the More Than Words Program
Learn more about the research behind More Than Words


TalkAbility is a Hanen Program for parents of autistic children aged 4-8. Like More Than Words, it combines small group training with individual coaching sessions for each family. Through learning the TalkAbility strategies, parents help their children find more joy and connection in their interactions and learn how to support their children’s conversations with both adults and peers. TalkAbility strategies also help parents and children learn to understand each other’s perspectives. As with all Hanen programs, these goals are accomplished while building upon and respecting the child’s unique strengths and interests and making the most of their existing everyday routines and activities.

Learn more about the TalkAbility Program
Learn more about the research behind TalkAbility


The More Than Words and TalkAbility programs include practical guidebooks written specifically for parents of young autistic children. Filled with concrete examples, checklists and clear illustrations, these guidebooks show parents how to incorporate the program strategies into their everyday interactions with their child. Parents who cannot attend a program can still benefit from the guidebooks, and professionals around the world incorporate these guidebooks into their everyday work with families.

Learn more about the More Than Words guidebook
Learn more about the TalkAbility guidebook

Workshops for SLPs

Hanen offers two professional development workshops specifically for SLPs who work with young autistic children  – More Than Words and TalkAbility. These workshops certify SLPs to offer the More Than Words and TalkAbility programs to groups of parents, and to use the program materials in their day-to-day work.

Learn more about each workshop at the links below.

More Than Words workshop
TalkAbility workshop

Workshop for Early Intervention Professionals

To support the wide variety of professionals who work with young autistic children and their families, The Hanen Centre created 4 “I”s to Socialize™. This workshop offers research-based strategies for building social communication, as well as a clear parent coaching framework for involving parents in individual therapy sessions.

Learn more about the 4 “I”s to Socialize workshop