Tip of the Week: Effective communication

Miscommunication is responsible for many, many behavioral outbursts in people living with Prader-Willi syndrome. Often times we say something that is either misinterpreted, misheard, or not understood at all. People with PWS typically have slower processing speed than their typical peers and therefore cannot fully understand complex instructions.  If you give a child or adult with PWS a multi-step request, they could still be processing the first step while you are requesting the second and third steps. This is frustrating for you and your child and leads to anxiety for both of you.

For effective communication:

Provide short and clear instructions – ideally, three steps or less.

Have your child verbally repeat what you have asked them to do.

For daily expectations, have routines written down or use visual schedules of each step.

Provide verbal praise for every successful communication and completed task.

People with PWS struggle with understanding more complex verbal and social communication. Refrain from sarcasm and non-verbal cues. Be clear, use as few words as possible, and give time for full processing between steps in each task.


Patrice Carroll is Latham Centers’ world-renowned Prader-Willi Syndrome specialist. She works with Latham Centers’ residents with PWS, their families, and consultants, continuously learning and teaching about PWS best practices.

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