AAC In the Classroom: Considerations for Modeling Core Vocabulary

June 12, 2017 by - 3 Comments

AAC In the Classroom: Considerations for Modeling Core Vocabulary
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Here in the US, many schools just let out for summer vacation but some special education teachers and SLPs are already thinking about things they want to prepare over the school break so they’ll be ready for fall. Some are contemplating changes to the ways they support AAC in the classroom. We’ve heard from several who are planning to prioritize modeling of core vocabulary using aided language input.

Before we start making large core boards and other support materials, though, it’s helpful to stop and think through some important issues. A little planning now will save time and effort in the long run. If you’re planning to do this kind of prep work over the summer, here are some questions for your team to consider.

  1. Does each student with complex communication needs have access to an AAC system that includes core vocabulary? If not, why not?
    • In some cases, the students would actually benefit from this approach but don’t yet have an appropriate AAC system. In those situations, we want to develop some sort of strategy to get them access to the kind of AAC they need. We may need to start the school year with a ‘bandaid’ system, but let’s at least make it a good bandaid, and commit to working toward a better solution as the year progresses.
    • In other cases, core vocabulary may not be the best ‘next step’ for a student. That’s fine, but let’s be sure these students have access to the kind of AAC that best meets their needs. AAC is not a one-size-fits-all proposition and a core vocabulary approach is not the answer for all learners. Still, it’s up to us to ensure that those students’ needs are addressed.
  2. Which language representation systems (vocabulary, layout, symbols) are the students using? The easiest situation is one in which all the students are using the same AAC system, but that doesn’t always happen. In those cases, it’s important for the team to dialogue about how they’ll support the students’ individual systems.
    • What do the systems have in common? For example, do they use the same symbol set? Do they use the modified Fitzgerald Key or some other approach to language organization? Which core words does the AAC system contain?
    • Is it possible to create one large board for modeling, or does the class need individual boards due to the range of the students’ AAC systems?
  3. How will we decide which core words to prioritize?
  4. How do we integrate work on core vocabulary with the other kinds of words that students need to learn and use?
  5. What is our plan for rolling out this approach? How will we get all the staff on board?
  6. How will we expand our modeling to include new core words over time?
  7. What can we do to keep everyone energized and motivated to use AAC as they move throughout the day?

There are no simple answers to these questions but having the conversation gets everyone focused in the same direction.

Are you planning for changes to how you approach AAC supports in the months to come? We’d love to hear about them.

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This post was written by Carole Zangari


  • Es says:

    I’m in process of making a large core board and am really excited about it! Most of my students have individual core boards that they’ll primarily use-1 style is more simplified (20 words for now and bigger) and the others have 50-70 words and are smaller).

    Thank you for your wonderful website, blogs, and videos. I pass them on to many people and have become more excited about AAC this past year. Many thanks!!

  • Lauren H says:

    Great advice! I’ve recommended similar things to the teachers and SLPs I consult with. I told several of them to use their summer break to create some type of “curriculum” to make the year easier. That way, they will know basically what types of things they want to start off the year with and where their kiddos should be by next May. Nothing is one size fits all, but it’s nice to have something to fall back on to keep you on track.

  • Laura says:

    Just wondering what sort of clients core vocabulary wouldn’t be appropriate for? Very helpful post, thank you!

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