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Checklist of Communication Competencies

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The Triple C Checklist of Communicative Competencies is a tool communication specialists use to assess the communication skills of adults with severe and multiple disabilities functioning at unintentional to early symbolic levels. Five stages comprise the Triple C, and the checklist is completed by support workers and care takers who are familiar with the handicapped adults in question.

Unintentional Passive

The first stage of the Triple C is called the unintentional passive stage. Unintentional passive describes a state in which an individual's behaviors produced in response to either internal or external stimuli are assigned intent or meaning by a communicative partner. For example, a person in the unintentional passive stage would show awareness of sounds and voices. This person would also visually follow slowly moving objects or other people. An example of a person in the unintentional passive stage would be a person who could stare at a radio and thus indicate to a caretaker that the person would like to listen to some music.

Unintentional Active

A person in the unintentional active stage attempts to act purposefully on objects. These behaviors would then be assigned meaning or intention by a communicative partner. People in the unintentional active stage reach or move towards familiar people in familiar situations. These people can also reach for objects in indicate preferences. For example, if a caretaker were to offer a person in this stage both an apple and an orange, the person could reach for his fruit of choice.

Intentional Informal

A person in the intentional informal stage can act upon the environment to create specific effects. These actions would result in communication attempts through informal rather than symbolic means. This person can imitate novel behaviors and use other people to get objects. For example, a person in the intentional informal stage might point at his mouth to show a caretaker that he was hungry.

Basic Symbolic

Someone in the basic symbolic stage can integrate information from each of his senses. He can also use trial and error to solve simple problems and use conventionally understood symbols within limited contexts. This person could give or show an object to a caretaker in order to make the caretaker perform some action. This person can also follow simple instructions once they become routine. For example, this person could give a jar to a caretaker for help opening it, or learn to use a napkin after finishing meals.

Established Symbolic

People in the established symbolic stage can solve problems thinking through them. These people have internal representations and can use symbols in a range of contexts. A person in the established symbolic stage can predict cause and effect relationships and use pictures for choice making. For example, you could show a person in the established symbolic stage an illustrated menu, and he could point to which food he preferred.


Elizabeth Hannigan began writing freelance articles in 2005. Her work can be found in "Orientations" magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Delaware.

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