Modeling AAC

 Where do we start?

Children learn language through models from the people in their lives, including parents, siblings, caregivers, and peers. This is no different for children who use methods of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)! With AAC users, language modeling is often called “Aided Language Input” or “Aided Language Stimulation”. This just means communicating with them in the same way that they are expected to communicate with us. If you’d like to learn more, check out this wonderful video, created by Christopher Bugaj, explaining aided language stimulation!

The chart below quickly compares the language development of typically developing speakers and AAC users. As you can see, children are immersed in thousands of words each day for an entire year before they are expected to begin using language to communicate.  If we model only twice per week for 20-30 minutes, it would take an AAC user about 701 YEARS to have the same amount of language immersion as a typically developing peer at age 9-12. So, let’s model, model, model!

We know modeling is important but where do we start? What vocabulary should we teach? Well, 80% of our everyday discourse is made up of a list of “core vocabulary”. (Check out the research here!) By teaching core vocabulary words, we give AAC users the opportunity to communicate for a variety of purposes across contexts. This includes initiating conversations, asking and answering questions, commenting, and directing the actions of others. We can incorporate all of these functions and more into our modeling! Here is a list of activities to practice modeling core words and other vocabulary for functions beyond requesting:

Reading books

  • “read it/that”
  • “read again”
  • “finished”
  • “I/you read”
  • “read more”
  • “turn [the page]”
  • “feel happy/sad”
  • “what now?” [what happens now?]
  • “where?”
  • “who?”
  • “why?”
  • “big/little” “you like?”

Guessing game (e.g., hidden objects, egg hunt) or Lift-the-flap Books

  • “where is it?”
  • “what is it?”
  • “who/what is there?”
  • “is it here/there?”
  • “yes, it is”
  • “no, it is not”
  • “not here/there”
  • “I/you get [got] it!”
  • “here/there it is”
  • “it is big/little”
  • “is it up/down here/there”
  • “like/don’t like that”

Cooking – real or pretend!

  • “make it”
  • “help”
  • “get that”
  • “I/you put on”
  • “put more on”
  • “it[‘s] mine”
  • “want some?”
  • “no more”
  • “eat it”
  • “it[‘s] good!”
  • “I don’t like it”
  • “finished”
  • “yes/no more”



  • “put [it] in”
  • “I/you put”
  • “I/you do it”
  • “don’t put”
  • “take [it] out”
  • “go here/there”
  • “put here/there”
  • “not here/there”
  • “where go?”
  • “yes/no”
  • “no, there”
  • “my/your turn”
  • “big”
  • “finished”
  • “do again”


  • “put on”
  • “put that on”
  • “more on”
  • “make it”
  • “help”
  • “I like it/that”
  • “put up there”
  • “some here”
  • “it [is] mine”
  • “big”
  • “little”
  • “different”
  • “feel happy”
  • “you do it”
  • “finished”

Wind-up toys/Things that move (toy cars, trains, spinning tops, balls)

  • “play”
  • “go”
  • “stop”
  • “go more”
  • “mine”
  • “help”
  • “go more/again”
  • “big/little”
  • “don’t go”
  • “go up/down”
  • “go here/there”
  • “go in/out”
  • “go on/off”
  • “turn”
  • “want go”

Turn-taking games/Board games

  • “come play!”
  • “I go”
  • “You go”
  • “my/you[r] turn”
  • “play more”
  • “it[‘s] fun!”
  • “put here/there”
  • “go where?”
  • “who[se] turn?”
  • “who [should] go?”
  • “it mine”
  • “not mine”
  • “go again”

Singing songs together (modeled words in bold text)

Example 1: “The itsy-bitsy spider go[es] up the water spout. Down come[s] the rain to wash the spider out. Out come[s] the sun and dries up all the rain and the itsy-bitsy spider go[es] up the spout again.”

Example 2: “Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are.”

For more information about device training and language therapy, check out: