Why CORE Vocabulary is better than Picture Exchange Communication Systems

Core vocabulary can be described as:

A set of the most frequently used words in communication- words used over and over with flexibility in a variety of settings and conversations.

Yup. That’s kind of it in a nutshell. ☝️

And turns out the most frequently used words are typically pronouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions and the like. 🤔

NOT the typical words you see on most picture icons. 👈

That’s because, chances are, you are familiar with icons representing the other type of vocabulary: fringe Vocabulary.

In comparison to core vocabulary, fringe words only make up about 20-25% of what we say. 🤯

These words are largely nouns and are specific to a person, a topic, or a setting.

For instance, the word “spatula” is a fringe word.

It is a noun and is very specific to the kitchen setting.

It doesn’t have flexible usage in a variety of conversations.

Consider the following conversation that could take place in the kitchen:

Mom: "What do you need?"

Child: "I need to turn it."

Mom holds up two options.

Mom: "Do you want a fork or a spatula?"

Child: "I want that one." (pointing)

There are 21 words in this conversation. 19 of the words are core words (what, do, need, I, turn, that . . . ).

The other 2 are fringe words (fork, spatula).

The child was able to communicate with 100% core vocabulary.

Instead of using the specific noun “spatula,” he was able to use other words that will come in useful in a variety of future conversations: “need to,” “turn it,” “that one.”

Picture a traditional fringe icon for “cookie.” 🍪

A student can present this icon to request a cookie. 🍪 That’s about it (give or take some creativity).

Now picture icons for core words such as “like” “don’t” “eat,” “want,” and “more.”

Now THESE words can really take you the distance. 🙌

Roughly 80% of What We Say Consists of Just 300 Words. 

When you teach your students CORE vocabulary, you're giving them so much more than just a few words.  

You're giving them the words they need to start a conversation, to comment to a friend, or to ask for something they want, or interject into a conversation.

Simply put, you're giving them the words they need to communicate.


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