Core Vocabulary:  AAC Foundation

Core vocabulary comprises the top 100-300 words used across languages and contexts, forming the basis for most programs and applications in AAC devices (from low to high tech). However, it’s essential to remember that an AAC device or program isn’t ready “out of the box” for an individual without personalization.


Customizing Core Vocabulary

While core vocabulary consists of crucial and frequently used words for communication, it’s important to personalize AAC vocabulary sets for students, clients, and families. Using core vocabulary as a foundation, personalization enhances the effectiveness of the AAC device or system.

How to Personalize

Here are some strategies to personalize an individual’s AAC device or page set:

  1. Ensure the main page includes everyday high-frequency verbs that the individual uses.
  2. Personalize folders like food and toys to include personal choices and general items.
  3. Use real pictures when appropriate, such as family and friends.
  4. Add favorite movies and characters to relevant folders. Nest character-specific folders within the “people” folder.
  5. Personalize “I”, “me”, and “my” pronouns by updating them to match the individual’s skin tone and hair color.
  6. Add customized phrases and “quick-fire” comments for the individual.
  7. Set the skin tone and hair color to diverse settings where available.

So lets take a look at what personalization can look like:


As you can see there is still a robust set of vocabulary on the starter pages, but they have been updated or personalized.

Motor Planning / Word to Folder Linking

When setting up vocabulary for an individual, it’s essential to establish word-to-folder linking. This eases navigation and significantly benefits AAC users. For instance, clicking on “eat” may open another folder or provide options to complete the phrase or sentence.

Some of our AAC programs already have this within their design.  LAMP, Proloquo (offers this feature), TouchChat with WordPower, and TDSnap has a new motor planning vocabulary set.

By linking verbs to relevant folders, users can navigate more smoothly. For example, linking “eat” to the food folder and “go” to the places or location folder makes the process more intuitive.

Setting up word-to-folder linking may be time-consuming initially, but once the base vocabulary is established, updating and personalizing it for other individuals becomes easier.

Diversity Settings in AAC Programs

Many AAC programs now include diversity settings for skin tone and hair color. For example, updating these settings in TD Snap and TouchChat with WordPower is straightforward.

By personalizing core vocabulary and taking advantage of new features in AAC programs, individuals can communicate more effectively and genuinely express themselves. 

If you have any questions, please drop me a note!

Shannon Archer, M.S., CCC-SLP

PS – If you are looking for some FUNctional AAC Activities, check these out on Boom Learning!