Get Them Talking: Communication Boards for Toddlers and Preschoolers

By: Center on Technology and Disability

Learn how to use two different Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) activity boards to help toddlers and preschoolers expand what they are able to communicate.


Core vocabulary vs. nouns

Traditionally much of the language offered to young and beginning Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) communicators has been comprised of nouns and descriptive words. This limits users to requesting and labeling when they have so much more to say.

Core words, comprised of a set of words we most commonly use, give AAC users access to a greater variety of words. This activity provides an experience to help you understand the importance of early access to robust core vocabulary.

Activity instructions

There are two communication boards for this activity.

1. Start with communication board labeled Board 1: Nouns. This is a type of board you might see in a typical preschool classroom.

2. Partner with someone at your table and have a conversation using this communication board.

3. One communication partner uses their voice while the other communication partner uses the communication board. Talk about your plans for the weekend, or just get to know each other.

4. After one minute switch roles so you can both experience being the communication board user.

5. After one more minute switch to the board labeled Board 2: Core and continue the conversation. This board contains the most common words used by toddlers.

6. Reflect on what you could or could not say using the two communication boards.

Board 1: Nouns

ACC communication board activity 1

Board 2: Core

ACC communication board activity 2

Key takeaways

  • We need to introduce AAC early
  • We need to give lots of input in symbol language before we can expect output in symbol language
  • Access to core vocabulary offers more combinations and flexibility in helping AAC users develop language
  • Expect that they can

The Center on Technology and Disability (CTD) helps children and youth with disabilities and their families, teachers, and service providers by providing a wide range of resources on assistive and instructional technology tools. CTD is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) under award #H327F130003.