Let’s All Communicate - Teaching Core Words to AAC Users

September is almost over.  It’s been a fun “free communication board” month and it seems like lots of you have enjoyed the boards.  I have two more posts left for this month.  I’m planning a Halloween communication board for next week. 

This week I feel like I’m cheating a little bit.  Rather than a topic board, I am posting a simple core vocabulary board that can be used any time, any where, in any activity.

Teaching kids who are learning to use aac how to use core words is very powerful.  So much can be said with only those first 25 early words.  When I do workshops, I sometimes (when there is time) challenge attendees to come up with as many 2 and 3 core word combinations as they can.  The lists can be amazing.

Core words are re-useable words, maximizing communication with multiple meaning words.  Using core words on communication boards gives access to the most-often used words, so users can generate genuine messages.  It also minimizes the amount of “real estate” needed for a robust vocabulary.  Core words are composed primarily of pronouns, lots of verbs, determiners, prepositions,conjunctions, adjectives and adverbs.

Those early core words* include I, no, yes, my, the, want, it, is, that, a, go, mine, you, what, on, in, here, more, out, off, some, help, all done, finished.

Combining these words gives access to powerful functions: 
what that it off
want that it on
some that I go
that mine here I go
it mine here it is
yes, mine on here
off that want more
that out is here
want help is on
it in is mine
it no in off mine

The list goes on and on. (But this post can’t).

Think about how many ways you can use the word “Go.”  Get in the wheelchair and go somewhere, go on the potty, get in the car and go, make it go by turning it on, go start the activity, go away and leave me along, I go someplace.

A focus on core vocabulary means faster and more functional communication in all environments.
AND it means more reasons to communicate than just wants and needs.
How many ways can you get your kids communicating with core words?

* Benajee, DiCarlo, Striklin, 2003

Keep communicating!


  1. Yes, yes, and yes! This post is incredibly helpful and will support the students I'm working with this year. Thank you very much! Jen :)

  2. Thank you for sharing such an insightful and informative post. I can't wait to try out this resource. I am your blogging buddy from Classroom Freebies Too! I pin your stuff all the time.

    Best wishes!