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This site has been completely revised, but the old modules are still available. Follow these links to the old modules:
Old vocabulary module,
Old features module
Old funding module


Home > Introduction to Vocabulary Selection

Introduction to Vocabulary

To some of us, vocabulary seems an afterthought, something to deal with later.

In fact, some vendors of equipment suggest that a device is ready for the individual to use "right-out-of-the box". Actually, vocabulary is the heart of the matter. An AAC user can have the best technology in the world, but if the vocabulary that SHE wants is not there or she cannot find it behind unfamiliar symbols or she gets lost in dynamic displays on a device, then the device is useless.

What happens when you learn a foreign language and then visit the country? You KNOW the sounds, though your accent is odd, but you are at a constant loss for vocabulary. You've got your dictionary, so you can look anything up, right? But it isn't fast enough, so you end up waving your arms and miming things, feeling that you look pretty ignorant.

If AAC is all about participation in life, then vocabulary is the tool that makes participation possible….the device is simply the "vocabulary-delivery system".

This module is about how to provide individuals with the vocabulary that they need.

Vocabulary Selection Strategies

Where you begin depends on what type of communicator you are working with: Emerging, Context-Dependent or Independent. These terms refer to the Communicative Independence Model discussed elsewhere on this site. If these terms are unclear to you, please refer back to the Continuum of Communication Independence.

A. Vocabulary for Emerging Communication
How to choose powerful vocabulary as you search for that first, reliable means of symbolic communication.

B. Vocabulary for Context-Dependent Communication
Whether the individual communicates with only a few people in a few contexts or with many people in many contexts, vocabulary selection remains a major task. This section describes many vocabulary selection strategies that are effective for these individuals.

C. Vocabulary for Independent Communication
Vocabulary has an entirely different purpose for the Independent Communicator who can spell anything. Words and phrases are selected primarily to enhance rate and reduce fatigue.

Feel free to read the sections that apply to different types of communicators in any order. But be sure to read them all. You can click on the links above, or just follow the path below, starting with Emerging Communication.

Go on to Vocabulary for Emerging Communication