Communication Series – Core Vocabulary Communications Board

Core Vocabulary Board

 Core Vocabulary Board

The image above is of a core vocabulary board, or more specifically the first stage of the core vocabulary boards. It is a 12 square visual communications board with some of the most frequently used expressions and words. I will include the board above as an attachment to download and print at the end of this post, but it is important to remember that this is not the definitive starting core board you must use.

Your own core board will depend on the vocabulary you deem most important for your student. You may, for example, decide to swap out “stop” and “go” for “yes” and “no”. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you take out “I”, “you”, “help”, “want”, “more”, or “finished”, but it’s your call based on your situation. If you decide that pronouns are too difficult for your student then you might swap “I” and “you” with photos of your student and yourself.

So you’ve printed and laminated your core board, what exactly should you be doing with it? The core board can be used as both an expressive and receptive aid, and how you use it once again depends on your situation. Ideally you should use it both ways, but using it for one or the other is a valid approach as well.

As a receptive aid you will use the board when talking to your student or making requests. So if you are a playing a game on a bike for example, you can point to “stop” and “go” as you say those words to provide visual support for your verbal instructions. If your student is helping you bake or cook you can point to the “more” symbol to request that they add more flour or herbs and spices to the cooking. If you’re playing a tasting game you can try different foods and then pull exaggerated expressions whilst pointing to the “like” and “don’t like” symbols. Another advantage of pointing to the core board is that it encourages you, as the speaker, to slow down. Far too often you will see people talking very quickly at autistic students or students with other disabilities. Often these students will have processing delay (something which is quite common in autism) and the rapid speech will mean that they simply do not process what is being said. If the speaker is having to actively locate the symbol to point whilst speaking, the speech is slowed down and therefore easier to process.

As an expressive aid you will help your student to point at the board themselves to communicate. Modelling and appropriate physical prompting can be used to do this. Depending on the fine motor skills of your student, you may need to increase the size of the board to allow them to point clearly to what they want. As I discussed in one of my sign language posts, one of the most common words to start with is “more”. I discussed the argument over whether using more as a starting in that post if your interested in reading it. “More”, “Go” and “Finished” are good starting points for the use of the Core Vocabulary board because they are terms applicable in a multitude of situations that provide the student with autonomy over an activity and how long it continues for. Whilst the use to request more food is an obvious one (each time they reach for the food item in question, you can model pointing to more or physically prompt them to point to more) it is far more than just a food requesting means. Blowing bubbles can become an interactive game by the child requesting “more”, pushing on the swing or on another outside toy can make use of “go”, sliding objects down a slope can make use of “go”, and playing a physical game with a student can be continued with “more”. As soon as the student indicates that they are finished, you can model pointing to “finished” initially and then move up to physically prompting to point to “finished” before fading the physical prompt.

Those are just some examples to get you started on your use of the Core Vocabulary Board – if you have any activities that you’ve used successfully that would fit in with this Board then feel free to comment below, or otherwise let me know how you get on with using your board.

Until next time.

Information Attachments

Core Vocabulary Board. pdf

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.

Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

In addition, please include the following company information in the resource section of your documentation:

2100 Wharton Street
Suite 400
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Phone: 1 (800) 588-4548
Fax: 1 (866) 585-6260

Web site:

Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and professional experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.