Avoiding a Splintered Vocabulary: “We Don’t Talk in Theme, so We Don’t Make Pages in Theme.”

Have you ever wondered why there aren’t more page sets for Grid 3 and other communication software that are themed for the holidays, seasons, or other topics? How cute would it be for a school to have a Thanksgiving page set to offer to students using AAC? We asked Belva Holman, Clinical Support Specialist at Control Bionics, to elaborate on why themed page sets sounds like a good idea, but isn’t best practice.

Tis the Season

When we think of holidays and using our AAC devices, the temptation is often to make a page all about that holiday. Especially in schools where we are used to teaching in themes, it makes sense to us to make a theme page of the holiday. However, when building a vocabulary page-set for someone or customizing one of the many excellent vocabularies and page-sets out there, our goal is to allow for fluent and easy communication.

We Don’t Talk in Theme, so We Don’t Make Pages in Theme

Now that’s not to say certain staff and support people don’t do their own thing and make a page of theme such as Thanksgiving, but the goal is for the vocabulary is to have all the words necessary for them to navigate through to say something like, “Happy Thanksgiving” or “pass the dressing’, etc. The words on the vocabulary should cross not only all environments, but also all occasions. So, for this reason, we have not built a “holiday“ page, but have a holiday area. All the holidays are listed so the user can select the word such as, “Thanksgiving” or “Christmas”. This allows the conversation to flow naturally and doesn’t encourage a splintered vocabulary.

Natural Communication

This communication should carry the user into any environment or occasion. If the vocabulary has been put together well, they should be able to navigate through the buttons to say anything in any of these settings or holidays.  We want the device user to be able to say things like: “I love rainy days”. But also, they should be able to say, “I love Thanksgiving”. If they are used to using the words, “I love”, then the only different words to navigate would be “rainy days” and “Thanksgiving”.

Add the Missing Words

So, the next time you are tempted to build a theme page, step back and just add any words that might be missing from the page-set. If you do need to add words that are not there, remember to put them into the correct category or location with other related words. Check out Belva’s tutorials on how to add buttons to a grid set on our support page.

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