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Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Number 1 Reason Why We Need Fringe Vocabulary - Learn From My Mistakes

This is a cautionary tale for those who support augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) users.  We spend a great deal of time talking about core vocabulary and teaching our AAC users to use those core words that are used most often and in multiple contexts.
We also put a lot of effort into moving away from teaching nouns first and teaching only the functions of labeling and requesting.

Recently PrAACticalAAC blog (Carole Zangari) had a post about the importance of not forgetting or abandoning fringe vocabulary.  She warned, " An AAC a system built exclusively of single words with only core vocabulary is not likely to meet the needs of most AAC learners. "

Fringe words are those lower frequency words that are important to the individual.  These words are often nouns, and can include  the names of family and friends, places, activities/toys, favorite foods, etc.

So, getting to my tale.  
For my 60th birthday last week, my husband and I drove down to Guerrero Negra in Baja California South.  The grey whales migrate down from Alaska to the lagoons there, and mate and give birth.  They are there for 3 months.
You can go out into the lagoon in small (23') boats and the whales will come right up to the boats and you can pet them.
I got sprayed a lot, but it was wonderful.

So, to the vocabulary problem:
       Down in this relatively isolated part of Mexico fewer people speak English.  My husband and I speak poqueno (little) Spanish.
So, I came prepared.  I made a couple of 32-location core and fringe word communication boards to take - just in case.
I focused on words like "lost," "flat," (tire), "help," "need," as well as some others, like, "whale," and "wet."

The day we left we stopped at a great little cafe we had found for breakfast.  The young man who had been there the day before and spoke a little English was not there.  The young lady who was there was not doing well with my Spanish.
I wanted eggs for breakfast, which was not a problem. I know the word for eggs.
What I did not know how to say was "over easy" - or even "sunny side up."  I pointed to a picture on the menu.
I got my eggs scrambled.

I wasn't particularly happy, but I ate them, of course.  And I wished for more fringe words on my communication boards.

So, keep on talking, and make sure you have enough words to say what you want to say!

p.s. Fun Fact of the Day: Guerrero Negra also has the largest salt mine in the world.

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