Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is constantly evolving not just the technology surrounding it but also the vocabulary that we emphasis as we teach it.
I have been in the field for forty-one years and have seen the transformation of how we think of AAC. When I began my practice sign language and the beginning Mayer-Johnson Boardmaker pictures were the options we had. The Boardmaker pictures were in a color-coded book that we would copy for our students. I will never forget recopying a page of symbols to have a student no longer recognize the symbol because they had processed the symbol with the three stray pen marks that were on it and the clean copy did not.
Now there are a variety of symbols that are being used (ex. Boardmaker, SymbolStix, Smarty Symbols) There is a great article from Spectronics that compares all the commercially available symbols sets ARTICLE ON SYMBOL SETS.
In addition to the change in technology and the variety of symbol sets so too our understanding of what vocabulary we should be teaching. Core Vocabulary are those high-frequency words that make up to 75-85% of the words we use daily. Whereas we use to teach fringe words ( words we use 20-25% of the time )which were primarily nouns that were personally relevant to the communicator, we now know that we need to emphasize core vocabulary.
Core Vocabulary consists of vocabulary that is common to the same age peers. When we look at our student’s AAC we need to think of a ratio of 4 common core words to every 1 fringe word.
Some examples of Core Vocabulary words are:
I, no, yes, my, the, want, is, it, that, a, go, mine, you, what, on, in, here, more, out, off, some, help, all done/finished
So how do you do this?
Go is one of my favorite words, to begin with. Think of all the activities that can you can use the word ‘go’.
- Play with trains have them go
- Push on a swing and then stop and then say go
- Pull in a wagon and stop for them to say go
- Play with hot wheels and a track or other cars have the child say go to release the car
- Turn water on and off have the child say ‘go’
- Use wind-up toys to have them ‘go’. I got a box from Amazon which had a mix of different characters. .
- They are really fun I have students request which one they want to go.
- There are some great books that have GO as part of their story.
Begin the instruction of all new vocabulary with aided language stimulation demonstrating the vocabulary. This could be hand over hand or demonstrating the selection of the word and showing what power that word has. I work with the classroom team to have us think of all the times we will be able to use the word throughout the day. We explicitly design lessons and opportunities throughout the day to focus on the word in a way that engages the student.
We begin to remove the support to ensure that the student is understanding the vocabulary word and reteach if needed. We take note of the environments and activities that the student is using the word.
How do you teach Core Vocabulary?