The Importance of Talking like a Toddler

The Importance of Talking like a Toddler

Supporting AAC users can be tricky with the vast array of AAC systems that are available. This post explores an efficient method of how you can quickly get up to speed on all the systems you support. 

In 2003, Meher Banajee and colleagues, published a study called “Core Vocabulary Determination for Toddlers”. This study looked into what words were spoken most commonly in a cohort of over 50 toddlers in a 3-day period.

The study yielded some interesting results:

25 words accounted for 96% of total words spoken during the research period.



If you have ever spoken to a 2 or 3-year-old you will know that they can say a lot. Although somewhat limited you can have a conversation.

What is helpful to think about is that with a bit of time and effort you could learn these 25 words on nearly any good AAC system. You could, quite easily, speak fluent Toddler with minimal effort using AAC.

Now think about the many individuals in need of an AAC system that are non-verbal or minimally verbal. If they learnt how to communicate these 25 words, how much would it change their lives?

Of course, there is more to language use then just knowing where a word is on a system. You need to have conversational skills, understand social cues, know how to use words for different language functions and how to combine these words together to create different meanings. However, as a starting point, these 25 words create an amazing foundation for language use. A foundation that is evidence based.

Learning these 25 words provide an additional benefit. It provides a clear starting point for language intervention for you.

What I propose is that in any AAC system that you are using with your clients, you must know how to speak fluent toddler on it.

Why? So that you can do the essentials of modelling and prompting language on their device.

For many speech pathologists, you likely have a caseload of children that come to you using a variety of different systems, most of which will all be individually customised as well, it may feel near impossible to learn them all. My advice, start small. Learn the position of these 25 words, it is achievable.

Speak like a toddler and you will be able to model and communicate in every activity and situation you find yourself in with your individual AAC clients.

In the video below I demonstrate my own ability to “talk like a toddler” using Unity 84 Sequenced and LAMP Words for Life 84 Full, both AAC vocabularies available through Liberator.

Good luck as you go forth learning to talk like a toddler!

Banajee, M., Dicarlo, C., & Stricklin, B. (2003). Core vocabulary determination for toddlers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication19(2), 67-73.

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