One of the best communication tools we learned to use with Connor was the First/Then concept.
We started by using visual cards. One card said first and the other card said then. The first item is typically something you are asking them to do (which is typically non preferred) followed by something they prefer. (first work, then play)
Start with small things that can be done fast and the reward is immediately available. Then you gradually build it. For example, if you are doing a table activity, you would say, first stack the blocks, then you can have one gummy bear. You would put the First/Then cards in the appropriate spot by the items. If the child stacks the blocks then they would get the gummy bear and praise instantly. Then you do it again. For Connor the praise and the clapping and the excitement was almost as rewarding for him as the gummy bear.
At first if you are working with a young child or one that does not read you will use pictures. The next step would be to use words and then eventually just be able to speak the first/then to the child.
This can be used in getting your child to try new foods. First eat the carrot Then you can have a French fry.
It can be used for chores, First make your bed, Then you can play outside.
It can be used when talking about the events of the day. First we are going to the grocery store, Then we will go to the park.
In the beginning it may take candy or a cookie to be rewarding for them. But quickly move away from it always being food as a reward. Use books, or toys or favorite videos.
I have include How~To Templates for the First-Then Board
Copy & paste to the URL below for the Templates from HandsInAutism.org
I hope this helps in same way and just know we are cheering you on!