Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Many Sentences Can You Make?

To the left is a board with 20 core words on it.  Some people wonder how many things can be said with 20 words.  I thought I would give it a try:

  1. I like you.
  2. You like me.
  3. I like it.
  4. I like that.
  5. I want some.
  6. I want more.
  7. I want some more.
  8. You want more.
  9. You want some.
  10. You want some more.
  11. I want that.
  12. You want that.
  13. I want help.
  14. You want help.
  15. I want (to) go.
  16. I want (to) go in.
  17. I want (to) go out.
  18. I want it.
  19. You want (to) go.
  20. You want (to) go in.
  21. You want (to) go out.
  22. I am all done.
  23. You are all done.
  24. You go in here.
  25. I go in here
  26. I like (to) go out.
  27. I like (to) go in.
  28. You like (to) go out.
  29. You like (to) go in.
  30. I want you (to) stop.
  31. You want me (to) stop.
  32. It go on here.
  33. It go out.
  34. It go in.
  35. What (do) you want
  36. That what I want.
  37. It is what I want
  38. I want some in here.
  39. You want some in here.
  40. What?
  41. What go(es) in?
  42. What go(es) out?
  43. What is here?
  44. Mine is here.
  45. It is mine.
  46. What is that?
  47. Some like it.
  48. Some like that.
  49. Not on this board.
  50. It not on this board.
Obviously my list assumes facial expression to imply a question versus a statement, but 50 possible sentences from 20 squares really increases that value of what some call a limited about of "real estate" on a communication board.

On the right is a 25 word communication board.  (It happens to be a photo of a poster a family uses to model core words and sentence building for their AAC user.)  This board is a print out from a dynamic display device, so abox is lost to "back", although back can certainly be used as a word as well.  By adding "not", "who", "that", "eat", and "now" to the above board how many more sentences can we make?
  1. I want this.
  2. You want this.
  3. I want this now.
  4. You want this now.
  5. Who want(s) this?
  6. Who want(s) this now?
  7. I am not all done.
  8. You are not all done.
  9. It is not all done.
  10. I am not all done now.
  11. You are not all done now.
  12. It is not all done now.
  13. Who is not all done?
  14. What is not all done?
  15. Who is all done?
  16. I (will) not eat that.
  17. I (will) not eat this.
  18. I (will) not stop eat(ing).
  19. I (will) not stop eat(ing) that.
  20. I (will) not stop eat(ing) now.
  21. I (do) not want it.
  22. I (do) not want that.
  23. I (do) not want this.
  24. I (do) not want (to) eat.
  25. I (do) not want (to) go.
  26. I (do) not want (to) stop.
  27. I (do) not like it.
  28. I (do) not like this.
  29. I (do) not like that.
  30. I (will) not go here.
  31. I (will) not go there.
  32. I (will) not go in.
  33. I (will) not go in here.
  34. I (will) not go in there.
  35. Not mine.
  36. I like this.
  37. You like this.
  38. What is this?
  39. Who is this?
  40. Who is out?
  41. Who is in?
  42. Who want(s) you?
  43. You want who?
  44. What want(s) help?
  45. Who go(es) in?
  46. Who go(es) out?
  47. Who is in now?
  48. Who is out now?
  49. Who is all done?
  50. Who wants (to) go?
  51. Who wants this?
  52. Who wants that?
  53. Who wants it?
  54. I eat this.
  55. I eat that.
  56. I want (to) eat.
  57. I want (to) eat this.
  58. I want to eat that.
  59. I want (to) stop eat(ing).
  60. I am all done eat(ing).
  61. I am all done eat(ing) now.
  62. I am all done eat(ing) here.
  63. I am all done eat(ing) that.
  64. I am all done eat(ing) this.
  65. Who is all done eat(ing) now?
  66. You are all done eat(ing).
  67. You are all done eat(ing) now.
  68. It is all done.
  69. It is all done eat(ing).
  70. It is all done eat(ing) now.
  71. It is all done eat(ing) here.
  72. It is all done eat(ing) this.
  73. It is all done eat(ing) that.
  74. It is all done go(ing).
  75. It is all done go(ing) out.
  76. It is all done go(ing) in.
  77. It is all done go(ing) now.
  78. I am all done go(ing) now.
  79. You are all done go(ing) now.
  80. That is more.
  81. This is more.
  82. It is more.
  83. This is all done.
  84. This is all done now.
  85. Now it is all done.
  86. Now you are all done.
  87. Now I am all done.
  88. Now that is all done.
  89. Now this is all done.
  90. Stop eat(ing) that!
  91. Stop eat(ing) this.
  92. Stop eat(ing) that now.
  93. Stop go(ing) now.
  94. Stop it now.
  95. Stop that now.
  96. Stop this now.
  97. Who stop(ped) that?
  98. Who stop(ed) this?
  99. Who is stop(ed) now?
  100. Who is stop(ped) here?
  101. What is stop(ed)?
  102. What is stop(ed) now?
  103. What is all done now?
  104. Who is all done now?
  105. Who is all done?
  106. Is it all done?
  107. Help it go.
  108. Help it eat.
  109. Help you eat.
  110. Help me (I) eat.
  111. You help me eat.
  112. You help me go.
  113. You help me go here.
  114. You help me go out.
  115. You help me go in.
  116. You help me go now.
  117. Now you help me.
  118. Now you help me go.
  119. Now you help me eat.
  120. I help you eat now.
  121. You help me eat now.
  122. I go back.
  123. You go back.
  124. It go(es) back.
  125. I go back now.
  126. I go back here now.
  127. You go back now.
  128. It go(es) back now.
  129. It go(es) back here.
  130. I go back here.
  131. You go back here.
  132. I go back in.
  133. You go back in.
  134. It go(es) back in.
  135. I go back out.
  136. You go back out.
  137. It goes back out.
  138. Who go(es) back out?
  139. Who go(es) here?
  140. Who go(es) back in?
  141. What go(es) back out?
  142. What go(es) back in?
  143. What go(es) back?
  144. What go(es) back here?
  145. What go(es) back here now?
  146. Now what go(es) here?
  147. Now who go(es) here?
  148. I (do) not want help.
  149. You (do) not want help.
  150. It (does) not want help.
So with 25 core words that is a total of 200 different things that can be said.  There are definitely some missing from my list too.  Feel free to add the ones missing to the comments.  Imagine how many things could be said with 30, 35, 40, 50 or 100 core words?  20 Core words is absolutely a starting point in working towards more self-generated language.  It has it's shortfalls: you can't say everything, there is no way to provide context (excluding multi-modal communication like pointing, eye pointing, gestures, nodding/shaking a head or a set of fringe vocabulary), there is no way to provide verb tenses (and therefore give context as to time) and 20 words is only a teeny, minuscule portion of what there is to say in the world.  

An intuitive and attentive communication partner can allow an AAC user to guide the conversation by asking clarifying questions, such as:
AAC User:  I go there.
Partner: You went there?
AAC User:  (Using gestures) No. (Using board.)  I want go there.
Partner:  Oh, you want to go somewhere?
AAC User: (Using gestures) Yes. (Using board) You help I (me) go there.
Partner: You want me to help you go somewhere.  Somewhere in the school? 
AAC User: I go eat.
Partner:  You want me to help you go to the cafeteria!?!
AAC User:  (Using gestures) Yes. (Using board)  I go eat now.  You go eat now.  Go eat there.
As you can see it takes some work on both sides, but try saying all that if you had twenty-five buttons that only had complete sentences like, "I want to listen to Raffi" and "I want to go potty"!  Core words do not have to replace pragmatic, phrase or sentence based alternative communication, but they are an excellent add-on to those systems.

Students can be taught to "try to tell me with your core words" when they cannot find a way to say what they want to say within their other pages.  If a core word page set is linked to a more pragmatic phrase or sentence based set of communication pages it might even be faster to say "stop" or "more" using the core words pages instead of navigating deep into the boards to find those things!

Core word pages can also be printed and laminated to make a portable, water proof and convenient solution on the road, in the pool or on a walk.  If you go to an office center like Staples or Office Max (or online at Vista Print) you can print out a core word board poster size (and have it laminated) to use around the house, outside or even hang it over the AAC users bed on the ceiling so he or she can "talk to myself".

You can try doing this sentence building activity yourself.  Try it at a staff meeting with aides and others or at home with your family.  Using pointing and gestures to provide context and see how much you can say.  This activity, sort of a sentence scramble, is a great way to train communication partners in how far you can go with just core words.  It could work in training adults or children to be good communication partners.

Core words can be limiting but its better than a world of yes/no questions and hoping someone guesses the questions to ask correctly, isn't it?


  1. This is why you want to teach Core words to all students!

  2. This page is an awesome resource!


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