Using Core Words in Activities @ Home: Ideas for Families

There are many ways to use the core words within your child’s communication board, book or device. One fun and easy way to do this is to use activity-based planning.

Activity-based planning simply means incorporating the core vocabulary into a motivating activity that you might do with your child. So, for example, if your child is having a snack, you can emphasize core words within that activity that you have identified in advance. Take a look at these templates to do this before you embark on the activity:

  1. For a very simple way to plan core words for a specific activity, see this Core words at home_template from Assistiveware’s core word classroom resource. 

2. Assistiveware also has “core word 5-minute filler” activities on their core classroom resource. Here’s an example:

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3. For a visual method of planning, check out Saltillo’s “activity-first approach.” An example is here:

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4. Last but not least, here is an excellent poster, “Say_It_With_Universal_Core” from Project Core (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies) that provides an overview of core words in different categories.

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Some things to remember while having fun with your activity….

  1. Repetition is good and important. Use the same core words over and over. This way your child sees the motor pattern that you are using.
  2. Don’t worry if you’re not sure at first where the core words are on the board. Going slow is a REALLY good thing! Actually, as communication partners we generally go too quickly!
  3. If your child is responding with the board/device, wait time is important. Some people process language at different rates. As a general rule, wait 10-20 seconds for a response (sing happy birthday in your head as a strategy!)
  4. But if your child does not respond, that is OK! When a child is beginning to use AAC there are no expectations to respond with the board/device, as some children need a lot of time to see AAC in action. Learning a new language takes time so the most important thing right now is to model AAC for your child. To see resources and videos on modeling see our previous post.
  5. You don’t have to speak a whole sentence with the board or device. Simply point to the core words while speaking the sentence. For example, during a snack with your child, you might say, “Now I’m going to open my juice box” but you can simply point to the word “open” or you could also point to “I open.”
  6. Try not to focus on questions that you would like your child to respond to. Communication means conversation. Questions are a part of communication but there are many other reasons to communicate. Instead of questioning, try commenting. Here are some different ways to comment (via Clay, D., SLT, retrieved from SimpleAAC,
  • Comment on what you are doing (e.g. “I am opening the jar”)
  • Comment on what they are doing (e.g. “you are putting a hat on”, or “you are going on the bus”)
  • Comment on what they are looking at (e.g. they look at the door when the doorbell rings, and you say “who is it?” “let’s go and see”)
  • Say what they might want to say (e.g. if they look at you, then at a chocolate bar and smile, you could say “oh, you like chocolate, you want it”)



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