Core Words are a hot topic in the world of Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). Core words are the words we use most often when communicating and makeup 80% of what we say. These high-frequency words can be used across contexts and settings. They include words such as “it”, “that”, “is”, “he”, “go”, “not” and are often times more abstract than their counterparts – “fringe” words. Fringe Words are approximately 20% of the words that we say when communicating and are used in fewer situations. They include words such as “zoo”, “pizza” and “wet”. For many years AAC was focused on the use of fringe words particularly with requesting.


AAC users were introduced to many fringe words to help them communicate their needs/wants and access their curriculum. Fringe words are very important, but how often does a child need to express “zoo” versus the times they may want to express a core word like “go”? This understanding and the research supporting the focus on core word use has transformed the way that AAC users are being taught in the classroom and therapeutic settings with far-reaching results!


The AAC device companies are following suit by creating vocabulary systems with easy access to core word vocabulary on home pages and a vast array of resources focused on core word learning and use.

The Tobii Dynavox company calls their set of core words “Core First”. They have created books, lessons and Core First posters that complement their Core First Gage Sets. In the ESE classroom setting I have used Core First books to introduce the use of “go”, “want”, “more”, “you”, “it”, “is” and many more! Aided language modeling (the therapist activating words on the AAC device while speaking and reading) can be used to demonstrate to users the various ways the core words on their device can be used.

Assistiveware has created an entire online toolset called the “Core Word Classroom”. Teachers, AAC professionals and parents can download lessons, five minute fillers (outlines of core words to be used during play activities), watch videos and read articles all related to best practices for use of core words in the classroom and home settings.

The success of core word use in the academic and therapeutic setting are coming to light at schools and clinics around the nation. A quick online search will reveal hundreds of resources related to “core words”. It’s amazing to hear AAC users expand their utterance through use of core words such as: 

*Stating Observations:  “I see the ___./I see that.”

*Expressing Likes/dislikes “I do not like it.”

*Asking Questions “Can I have it?”


Learning how to use these Core Words can open up a new world for AAC users. They are given the gift of learning words that can help them communicate 80% of what they want to say. What is better than that??!! Maybe only one thing – pairing Bluebee Pals and the new Bluebee Pal App with Core Word instruction.

The house activities of the Bluebee Pals App are a great tool for practicing use of core words. Students can state what they see and hear happening in the lively Bluebee House with the core word vocabulary on their AAC device. Bluebee is great at saying core words too! Hip Hip Hurray for the new Bluebee Pals App that is available just as the world of AAC is expanding!




***Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP-Speech Language Pathologist-Princeton House Charter School-Passion-Hope-Communication-Service


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