I want to model language using AAC for my child… But how?!

by McKenzie Lee, M.S., CCC-SLP

In my last AAC post, we talked about how everyone benefits from AAC and the importance of modeling to provide AAC users the understanding of and confidence towards using another method of communication. Today, we are going to talk about the fun stuff — how we can apply modeling to activities! Woohoo!

pic aac

Before we dive in, I want to talk about the words we choose to model and why. AAC is comprised of two types of words: Core words and Fringe words.

  • Core Words: The most frequently used words in the English language — they make up 50-80% of our conversation! These can be applied to any/all conversations and situations. This includes words like need, is, he/she/they, go, more, again,
  • Fringe words: Words that are more specific to certain scenarios/activities. Words like tiger, kayaking, strawberries,

When we are first starting to model AAC with our users, we want to first show the Core words, so that they can begin using language in lots of different conversations, not just words that are applied to very specific activities.

We’re going to talk about 3 different activities but target the same five Core words, so that we can make sure our AAC users understand how we can use the same targeted words across a variety of activities throughout the day. You will notice that I also included other Fringe words in the list of words; however, I haven’t bolded them in the examples provided.


Playing Cars

Core Words: go, stop, more, help, again

Fringe words: Car, drive, gas, tow, race, crash, etc.

 When you’re playing with your little one, talk through what you and your child are doing as you’re playing:

  • Initiating: “Let’s race! On your mark, get set, go!” “There’s a roadblock! How should we go around it?” “We need to ask for help!”
  • Commenting: “You’re making your car go!” “Oh no, it crashed again!” “I’m going to stop to help you!” “I’m going to go get you more gas for your car”
  • Asking questions: “Do you need help?” “Oh, you’re going to go get it?”

Just in those few sentences, there were 8 opportunities to model some of those Core words! That’s a lot! Remember to not put too much pressure on yourself though to model every time if that is making you feel overwhelmed. You want this to be a fun, relationship-building activity with your little AAC user 🙂 Set a goal for yourself maybe to model Core words for a total of 10 times throughout the activity.

*Remember: have the iPad/communication book/picture icons within reach for both you and the user so that you can both use the icons throughout the activity!

Now let’s think about how we can apply those same five Core words (go, stop, more, help, again) to another activity:


Reading a Book

Core Words: go, stop, more, help, again

Fringe Words: (this could include anything pertaining specifically to your book)

When you’re reading, talk about the pages of the book! There are so many language opportunities here:

  • Noticing the pictures together: “Do you see how the girl wants to stop to pet the dog?”
  • Comment on the book: “Oh no, they did that again! He should really stop that!”
  • Talking about how your little AAC user relates to the book: “Oh look, they’re going to the park! You love to go to the park!”
  • Asking questions: “Can you help turn the page?” “Do you think they should do more of that?”


Let’s apply those discussed Core words into an everyday routine:


Going to the Grocery Store

Core Words: go, stop, more, help, again

Fringe Words: specific food items, reach, buy, cart, etc.


  • Commenting:
    • “We need to go to the grocery store now! I know we just went yesterday, but we need more flour so we have to go again,”
    • “Oh that’s on sale, let’s buy more, even though we have some at home.”
    • “I see our neighbor! Let’s go say hi!”
    • “Let’s stop here and pick out a pizza.”
    • “I see you can’t reach the yogurt you want… I’ll help you!”
  • Requesting:
    • “I need help pushing the cart,”
    • “Hey can you please stop hanging off the cart?”
  • Asking questions:
    • “Do you want to go in the cart?”
    • “Can you help pick out a cereal?”


There are many, many more words that can be targeted — talk with your Speech-Language Pathologist about ways that you can apply what your AAC user is working on in speech therapy into your everyday activities!


In the next post, we’ll hear from one of our Kidspeak Speech-Language Pathologists about her experience with AAC!