Communication Supports

Beginning Communicator Supports

Project Core offers comprehensive supports for communication instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies developed Project Core in response to needs identified through the DLM Alternate Assessments. At the Project Core site you will find: 

More about the DLM Core Vocabulary

DLM Core Vocabulary Overview (PDF, 10 pages, 392 KB) This paper describes the value of using a core vocabulary for students who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), particularly when addressing the communication and academic demands of the DLM Essential Elements.  The paper also includes a detailed description of the selection and ranking process used to identify the 463 words included in the DLM Core Vocabulary.

DLM “First 40″ Core Vocabulary (PDF, 1 page, 281 KB) This table includes the DLM “First 40” recommended core vocabulary words for students and a description of how these words were selected.  The “First 40” core vocabulary words are particularly useful for students who need AAC systems with a limited set of words and symbols due to motor, sensory, and or cognitive challenges.

DLM Core Vocabulary-Resource (XLSX, 27 KB) DLM Core Vocabulary is a list of words that have been determined to be highly useful for communicating in both social and academic contexts. The words are listed in rank order of utility based on a variety of factors that are fully explained in the DLM Core Vocabulary Overview paper. This word list includes vocabulary that is necessary for the DLM Essential Elements. (This list is also available in PDF format.)Columns on the spreadsheet include the following:

  • Column A: Core vocabulary words
  • Column B: Priority score. A larger number indicates greater utility.
  • Column C: A score of 1 indicates that this word was included in the AAC core vocabulary research that we reviewed.
  • Column D: Initial DLM Essential Element for which the word is needed.
  • Column E-G: Additional Essential Elements for which the word is needed. These lists are not exhaustive.

Here are some examples of communication displays that present the top 40 DLM Core Vocabulary words. Each has 4 words per page on 10 pages. As described in the DLM Core Vocabulary and Communication Module, we suggest that you select the one that uses the symbols already used in your school. Print the pages in a size that meets the needs of your student(s). Then laminate and bind them together so that you can start modeling their use across activities throughout the day.

3D Printer Tactile Symbols for Core Vocabulary

The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies has a different project that is focused on the use of core vocabulary to support symbolic communication development for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  Several of the students in the project have multiple disabilities including deafblindness.  They need tactile symbols and there are not existing tactile symbols that systematically represent core vocabulary. To address the need, we are developing tactile symbols that can be printed on a 3D printer. These are currently in development and are likely to change as we learn more, but we have decided to share them because we understand that the need is not limited to the students in our project.  Here is a picture of the symbols:

Top View Example 3D Symbols

 You’ll need access to a 3D printer that can print in multiple colors (we use multiple colors to take advantage of any residual vision the student may have), and you’ll need to use 3D design software to view and/or modify these files (we use  Each symbol has braille (on the top to support orientation and accommodate the fact that most of the students in our project can only manipulate the object with one hand); the label is stamped in print (to ensure that sighted communication partners call the symbol by the correct name); and a specific tactile representation of the word.  The colors and shapes are organized as follows: Green Square (prepositions) Red Triangle (verbs) Blue Heart (adjectives) Yellow Circle (adverbs/conjunctions) White Hexagon (pronouns) We will be adding to the symbols over time.  The symbols can be found here, at the Project Core website