“Core vocabulary is not going to work for this student” is something I hear all the time.  At this point, I’ve mostly learned to tune it out and continue pushing for my students to have an AAC system with a robust vocabulary which includes CORE language.  But every now and then, my anger over this statement reaches a certain point and I just have to let loose! So here it goes to all the behavior specialists, teachers, administrators, and therapists out there who continue to use this statement.  I’ll let one of my students prove you wrong!

What is CORE vocabulary?

50 core

Core vocabulary is a small set of high frequency words that are used across settings and age groups and are applicable to all topics.  It includes about 350-400 words that make up approximately 80% of what we say.  Core words include a variety of parts of speech including verbs, pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc.  In a 2003 study, Banajee, DiCarlo, and Stricklin, found that 26 core words comprised of 96.3% of the total words used by toddlers in the study!  You can check out the list here!  Please share this with all the people who say this (or some variation): “well developmentally, he’s only about two and not ready for a system with those words.”

My other favorite variation is: “Core words just don’t apply to learners with complex communication needs.”  Say this to my students.  I dare you.

This morning a teacher and SLP shared that one of their students has been “hilarious” and “really showing what a personality he has” since getting his Accent 1000 with Unity 84 Sequenced.  Apparently he’s been telling teachers that he doesn’t like: “you bad” or “you awful.”  When denied juice on two separate occasions, he told his teacher “abuse” and “fight.”  He has complex communication needs.  He is using CORE words!  Curious to find out what else he’s saying, I asked his SLP to pull his language data.  Here’s what we saw:

Parts of Speech

Guess what?  Noun vocabulary accounted for only 13.17% of his speech. The nouns + other, which included names of his family, teachers, and friends, accounted for a total of 31.85% of his speech. Pre-stored phrases accounted for 1.15% of his speech.  That means 67% of his speech was comprised of CORE words!

He’s had his device for less than a year.  His language may not exactly follow the 80:20 / core:fringe rule, but he’s pretty darn close!  And without CORE he could never tell his teachers and therapists how “bad” and “awful” their activities are! 🙂

So the next time someone tells you a student can’t use core language because of their complex communication needs, think of my student, and continue advocating for yours!

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