February 1, 2015

For the LOVE of CORE Day One: The 80/20 and Labels, Labels, Labels

Posted in AAC, Augmentative Alternative Communication, Autism, Core Vocabulary at 6:51 PM by kellyvansingel


February 1, 2014

So what is core vocabulary?  And why is it so important?

Core vocabulary makes up about 80% of someone’s communication output. The other 20% is known as fringe vocabulary.  Core words are used often and frequently.  Below is an example of the 26 most common core words used by toddlers as compiled in a 2003 study by Banajee, Dicarlo and Stricklin*:
Banajee Toddler Core

*See also this article by Bruce Baker for more examples and additional core vocabulary lists

Core words are powerful words.  Just look at some of the phrases and sentences that can be made from just the toddler list above:

  • All done.
  • I go here.
  • This is mine.
  • I want some.
  • What is that?
  • Yes it is.

One thing I have noticed in the language development of both of my girls living with autism is that most of their first words were: nouns, nouns, nouns and more nouns.   They did not develop functional core word language like a typically developing toddler or preschooler.   My theory of why this might sometimes happen in those with autism is perhaps there is a remarkable difference in the language processing center of the brain, or nouns, nouns, nouns and more nouns language acquisition is a protective sensory processing measure akin to lining things up.


My girls tend to label, label, label things around them to perhaps makes sense of the world around them– and to feel safe in the world around them due to their sensory processing differences.   One of the most common language enrichment practices seen in preschool and young elementary classrooms is the labeling of items in the classroom to help youngsters learn to recognize the printed pattern of common words and items in their surroundings.


A simple and fabulous suggestion I heard at a recent core vocabulary professional development session I attended is this: label things around the classroom or the home with core word phrases to help learners with delayed language acquisition gain additional exposure to functional core word meanings in the context of their play and learning environment.




“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

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