Discovery Skills: Communication Chart


To record how people communicate; prevent information loss during staff turnover; give new people a quick reference guide; and reduce the need for behavior plans that arise from people not being listened to. Helps us understand what a person is trying to tell us and what those who support the person need to do in response.

  • Useful both with people who are very articulate and who do not use words to communicate.
  • Should be used for all people who do not communicate with words and many people whose behavior is clearer than words.


  • All behavior IS communication.
  • Everyone communicates with their behavior regardless of whether we ‘listen’ to the behavior, understand it, or respond to it.
  • Communication plans reduce the need for behavior plans.


Start with the observed behavior (second column). This is an observable behavior by the person. The third column is the meaning of the behavior. Once the middle two columns are complete, fill out the first column and then the fourth column. The first column lists circumstances when the behavior occurs while the fourth column lists what should be done in response to the behavior.

In more detail: The first column heading What is happening describes the circumstances in which the behavior occurs. For example, it could be the place, the people around, or the activity that affect someone’s behavior. When the behavior has the same meaning regardless of circumstance then what is recorded in the first column is “anytime”. The second column (person’s name) does describes what the person does in terms that are clear to a new reader who would recognize the behavior. For people where it is something hard to describe (e.g. a facial expression), a picture or even a video recording may be preferred.

The third column heading We think it means is our guess as to what the behavior means. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for there to be more than one meaning for a single behavior. Where this is the case, all of the meanings should be listed.

The fourth column heading We should describes what those who provide support are to do in response to what the person is saying with their behavior. The responses under this heading give a careful reviewer a great deal of insight into how the person’s communication is perceived and supported.