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Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, Transactional Support (SCERTS)

SCERTS® is a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach designed to improve communication and social-emotional functioning of young children with autism. The areas emphasized include social communication (SC), emotional regulation (ER), and transactional support (TS).


SCERTS® is a comprehensive approach for children with AU targeting communication and social-emotional functioning. The acronym refers to social communication (SC), emotional regulation (ER), and transactional support (TS)—the core components of the model. The following figure identifies target areas, briefly describes them, and lists component parts.


Brief Description


Social Communication

Enhances the ability to engage in reciprocal interactions

  • Joint attention
  • Symbolic behavior
  • Sharing emotions
  • Expressing intentions

Emotional Regulation

Teaches children with AU coping skills and how to regulate their emotional state

  • Self-regulation
  • Mutual regulation
  • Recovery from dysregulation

Transactional Support

Provides necessary learning, education, social, and family supports within various social contexts

  • Learning support
  • Interpersonal supports
  • Family support
  • Support from professionals

Goals, objectives, and activities may be identified under each developmental domain according to the learner’s developmental level and individual needs. Learning activities are functional and related to the child’s life experiences and reflect the child’s interests and family expectations.

The curriculum components are drawn from research. The SCERTS® model has three major characteristics:

  1. It is systematic, semi-structured, and flexible.
  2. It addresses underlying capacities in the development of functional skills.
  3. It incorporates practices from various approaches and teaching strategies, such as augmentative communication, relaxation techniques, and sensory supports.

The following are core values/guiding principles that appear in the training manual, The SCERTS® Model: A Comprehensive Educational Approach for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin, Laurent, & Rydell, 2006):

  1. The development of spontaneous, functional communication abilities and emotional regulatory capacities are of the highest priority in educational and treatment efforts.
  2. Principles and research on child development frame assessment and educational efforts. Goals and activities are developmentally appropriate and functional, relative to a child’s adaptive abilities and the necessary skills for maximizing enjoyment, success, and independence in daily experiences.
  3. All domains of a child’s development (e.g., communicative, socio-emotional, cognitive, and motor) are interrelated and interdependent and can be influenced by environmental variables. Assessment and educational efforts must address these relationships.
  4. All behavior is viewed as purposeful. Functions of behavior may include communication, emotional regulation, and engagement in adaptive skills. For children who display unconventional or problem behaviors, there is an emphasis on determining the function of the behavior and supporting the development of more appropriate ways to accomplish those functions.
  5. Behavior and communication can be influenced by the environment and how others interact with the learner. Therefore, the model includes interaction goals for individuals (e.g., teachers, support personnel, and parents) who interact with the child.
  6. A child’s unique learning profile of strengths and weaknesses plays a critical role in determining appropriate accommodations for facilitating competence in the domains of social communication and emotional regulation.
  7. Natural routines across home, school, and community environments provide the educational and treatment contexts for learning and for the development of positive relationships. Progress is measured in reference to increasing competence and active participation in daily experiences and routines.
  8. It is the primary responsibility of professionals to establish positive relationships with children and with family members. All children and family members are treated with dignity and respect.
  9. Family members are considered experts about their child. Assessment and educational efforts are viewed as collaborative processes with family members, and principles of family-centered practice are advocated to help build consensus with the family and enhance the collaborative process. (p. 18)

Research Summary

Ages (yrs) Skills Settings Outcome
0-22 Social, communication, joint attention, behavior, play, cognitive, school readiness, self regulation, motor, adaptive Home, school, community

Outcomes:     Evidence-based     Emerging     No evidence     Comprehensive

Steps for Implementation


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