Current Trends in AAC Vocabulary Selection: Is Core Enough?

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About the presentation:

AAC intervention with the nonverbal and minimally verbal population of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has become an increasing focus of both clinical and research efforts over the course of the past several years. Many practitioners implement picture-based augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) interventions for individuals who are not using speech as their primary mode of communication, including both the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), smart tablets with an AAC app and dedicated Speech-Generating Devices (SGDs). An issue receiving more attention in relation to AAC intervention for this population is vocabulary selection. Vocabulary selection is critical in that it impacts upon both motivation and communication rates and opportunities for the learner. The Core Vocabulary approach to initial vocabulary selection is focused on the use of a planned set of high-frequency, re-usable vocabulary. Core vocabulary as the sole strategy for selecting vocabulary for AAC users with Autism Spectrum Disorder has limitations. First, these words are not words that typically developing children learn as their first words. In addition, core vocabulary lists are based on the language of typically developing individuals and might not reflect the unique characteristics of individuals on the autism spectrum. In this presentation, I compare vocabulary selection strategies. I review and discuss the characteristics of individual Core Vocabulary items, with a particular focus on vocabulary functions and relationships to vocabulary size during development. I will describe f research-based tools that can be used to help determine when to incorporate a given Core Vocabulary or other vocabulary item into a given learner’s intervention program. I discuss the feasibility of using symbol sequencing such as within Unity® and Minspeak® as an initial vocabulary/icon selection for individuals with no history of picture use. Finally, I discuss motivational factors and teaching strategies for vocabulary selection, including introducing a sub-set of Core Vocabulary items, with specific reference to developmentally and functionally appropriate incorporation of particular Core Vocabulary items into evidence-based AAC strategies such as The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) intervention programs for learners with ASD.

Upon completion of this presentation, participants will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast different vocabulary selection strategies for AAC
  • Describe criteria for determining when a given vocabulary item should be introduced into a given learner’s vocabulary
  • Understand the role of motivational factors in teaching Core Vocabulary items to learners with ASD

About the presenter:

Lori Frost, M.S., CCC-SLP is co-founder of Pyramid Educational Consultants, Inc. and Co-Developer of The Picture Exchange Communication System®.  She has been the driving force behind creating this unique Augmentative/Alternative Communication system that allows individuals with limited communication abilities to initiate communication in a form understandable by peers, family and educators. Along with Andy Bondy, Lori is co-author of the PECS Training Manual, 2nd Edition, A Picture’s Worth, and Autism 24/7.  Ms. Frost’s background in functional communication training and applied behavior analysis is apparent in the products and services she designs to promote effective and efficient teaching tools for non-speaking learners.   Ms. Frost received her BA in speech pathology and audiology from the University of Arkansas in 1981, and MS in speech and language pathology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982. She has worked in many public and private school settings as a speech language pathologist and continues to consult to schools, community programs and families of individuals with complex communication needs.As Co-Founder of Pyramid Educational Consultants in 14 countries, Ms. Frost has traveled the world, teaching workshops on PECS, the Pyramid Approach to Education, and using B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior and Applied Behavior Analysis to create rigorous and precise training protocols. She has volunteered in many schools around the world.  Ms. Frost has presented numerous papers and lectures on autism and communication, co-authored article, books and chapters, and is respected by professionals in her field as a leader in analyzing and teaching functional communication.