The Communication Matrix is a fantastic tool created to assess early communicators and offers a guide for intervention development.

This is a tool that I have used to help me better asses my student’s strengths.  Knowing their current level of communication allows for more appropriate programming!

The communication matrix breaks down early communication into the following 5 levels:

1.  Preintentional Behavior (0-3 months) – In this stage, we see behaviors, but they are not under the child’s control.  They reflect the general state or feelings of the child.  We might see an infant cry due to hunger or the need for changing.  Typically the caregiver interprets the behaviors of a child to determine their needs.

2.  Intentional Behavior (3-8 months) – Children start to control behaviors, like body movements, eye gaze, and vocalizations.  They are not communicating intentionally yet.

 Intentional Communication Starts

3.  Unconventional Communication (6-12 months) – In this stage, children are using “unconventional pre-symbolic” behaviors to intentionally communicate.  The behaviors are considered unconventional as they would not be appropriate for an older child.  The behaviors are not symbolic, they do not have a specific meaning.  Children may cry or vocalize for a desired item or to be held.

4.  Conventional Communication (12-18 months) – The pre-symbolic behaviors are used purposefully and are socially acceptable.  These behaviors may be maintained in further stages.  Some examples of these behaviors are hugging, pointing, waving, joint attention sharing, and gesturing.

Symbolic Communication Starts

5.  Concrete Symbols (12-24 months) – Concrete symbols are used to communicate.  These symbols look or feel like the item they represent.  For example, a cup for a drink or a picture of a shoe to represent a shoe.  While most children skip this stage and go to using abstract symbols, we may work or have children that are communicate with concrete symbols.

6.  Abstract symbols (12-24 months) – Vocalizations (speech), sign language, written words, and braille are all examples of abstract symbols.  These symbols do not match the object or the idea they represent.

7.  Language (24 months)

You can learn more about the communication matrix at:

What is the child’s level of communication?