Vocabulary Selection & Organization

Vocabulary selection: This refers to choosing the words or symbols that are present on a communication board or device, and “when selecting vocabulary, two kinds of words are needed” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 2):

– core vocabulary: “Words commonly used given a situation” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 2). Core vocabulary consists of common and frequently used words.

 – fringe vocabulary: “Words specific to an individual/activity” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 2). Fringe vocabulary is made up of less frequently used words.

There are various techniques that can be used to select vocabulary and “it is essential to use multiple vocabulary selection techniques to ensure that both core and fringe vocabulary are included” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques, para. 2). As cited in Morrow, Mirenda, Beukelman, and Yorkston (1993), vocabulary selection techniques may include:

  • Making an inventory of the “environments and activities in which the child needs to communicate” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 1).
  • “Using communication diaries to track and record the AAC user’s attempted interactions” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 1).
  • “Reviewing standard word lists to create a core vocabulary list (i.e., words commonly used given a situation)” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 1).
  • “[Compiling] a list of words and phrases thought to be potentially useful to the [person using AAC]” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 1).
  • “Using categorical frameworks to identify words from different categories such as people, places, and feelings” (Fallon, Light, Paige, 2001, Vocabulary Selection Techniques section, para. 1).

Vocabulary organization: This refers to the layout, or how symbols are organized on a communication board or device. Vocabulary can be organized in several different ways:

– activity: Activity based vocabulary organization groups symbols based on specific tasks or situations that are completed throughout the day such as “an ‘eating’ page with food names on it and phrases such as ‘all done’ or ‘more'” (Hurd, 2008). Organizing vocabulary in this way provides contextual cues for individuals who use AAC and helps them to learn how to classify things in their environment.

anne activity

– parts of speech: This categorization method encourages language and literacy development because the symbols are organized by parts of speech such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs etc.. A “language based approach to organizing words allows [a person] more flexibility to communicate…individual thoughts” (Hurd, 2008).

greg pronouns

– category: Organizing vocabulary by category requires the person using AAC to have knowledge of classification systems and when used alone can limit the scope of what an individual can say and makes using correct grammar structures difficult. However, category based organization can be useful when used in conjunction with other organization methods. For example a “language based” communication system will most likely have multiple “noun” pages, and each of these can be grouped by category: food, animals, clothing items etc.

anne category

– alphabet: This type of organization allows for the greatest scope of communication possibilities because the person using AAC can create novel messages and convey complex and abstract thoughts and ideas. However, individuals who use this type of organization system must be literate.

jean alphabet

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