Using AAC at Home

Help! My child received his AAC device, and we’re supposed to practice at home. Where do I start?

To begin, “AAC” stands for “Augmentative and Alternative Communication,” and it is used when describing other ways for individuals to communicate their wants, needs, or thoughts without verbal speech. AAC can include anything from gestures or pictures to speech-generating devices. AAC helps individuals with a variety of speech and language disorders communicate more effectively with their family, peers, and the world around them.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are able to find the best form of AAC for an individual based on his/her needs and abilities. Once the system (e.g., pictures, speech-generating,etc.) is chosen, it’s very important to use the system as often as possible. The AAC user needs time to practice and learn how to best communicate with his/her new system, and his/her family needs opportunities to practice, model, and learn along with the child. This can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are my top 2 recommendations:

First, start using the new system during one daily routine. Ideally, the words and the routine would be the same for both the child and the family with the system as the “new” addition. So, really, you are focusing on the same vocabulary, just in a new way! Picking one routine allows you to practice and become more familiar with the system. As you feel more comfortable, you and your child should use the system in additional daily routines, while gradually using it throughout the entire day.

My second recommendation focuses on the types of words that are chosen to practice first. “Core vocabulary” refers to general words that can be applied to multiple contexts for a variety of functions. This can include requesting, asking questions, commenting, and/or protesting. Core vocabulary includes verbs (actions), adjectives (describing words), pronouns, and prepositions (locations). “Fringe vocabulary” are very specific words, typically nouns (people, places, things), and are not easily combined to create sentences or a complete thought. While fringe vocabulary is still important and has a purpose, core vocabulary should be the focus of a new communication system to allow the child to communicate their thoughts in a variety of contexts. If you’re not sure where to start, consult your child’s SLP for target words for home practice!

Below are some daily routines and an assortment of possible target core vocabulary words you can use! You will see that many of the words can be used in more than one routine, allowing your child to have multiple exposures to the same word.


  1. Actions: eat, drink, want, see, put, help
  2. Pronouns: I, you, me, he, she, it, that
  3. Locations: on, here, there
  4. Adjectives: more, hot, cold, good, bad
  5. Example 2-word combinations: want more, you drink, see it, it bad


  1. Actions: go, sleep, want, put, come, help
  2. Pronouns: I, you, me, it, that
  3. Locations: in, on, under, here, there, off
  4. Adjectives: soft, hot, cold
  5. Example 2-word combinations: I sleep, I cold, want it, put here, you go

Bath Time:

  1. Actions: wash, put, want, help
  2. Pronouns: I, me, you, it, that
  3. Locations: in, on, here, there
  4. Adjectives: hot, cold, wet, dry
  5. Example 2-word combinations: you wash, put in, want that, it hot, help me

On a walk:

  1. Actions: see, look, want, walk, run, help
  2. Pronouns: I, me, you, he, she, it, that
  3. Locations: on, off, in, under, there, here
  4. Adjectives: hot, cold, wet, dry
  5. Example 2-word combinations: see it, you look, that hot, I run

One last note! You always want the system to be accessible to the AAC user all day, even if you aren’t modeling or targeting certain vocabulary at the time. You never know what your child may want to tell you! 😊

-Shannon Greenlee, M.A., CCC-SLP

For more information about AAC, visit the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) website: