Special events and holidays provide many opportunities for individuals to use their AAC devices in meaningful and motivating ways. These include using core words, seasonal fringe words, social comments and questions, and more. Additionally, using photos, jokes, and music also offer unique ways for individuals to use high tech AAC devices (aka speech-generating devices) with their family or community.

It seems like most of our current posts start with something like, “While ___ may look different this year due to the pandemic...,” and this post is no different. Special events and holidays probably look different to many of us this year. Smaller groups, less opportunities to gather with others, the cancelation of events or events gone virtual are just some of the ways we are learning to adapt to the holidays this year.

Despite the challenges and differences, one thing that doesn’t need to be canceled is including an individual’s AAC device in the celebrations! There are so many typical, but also unique, ways an individual can use their AAC device to participate in special events, whether they are communicating with another individual in their home or via Zoom.

Read on to see how core words, fringe words, social questions, photos, jokes, music, and longer pre-stored messages can be used to make special events even better!

Core Words

Core words are the most commonly used words in our day-to-day communications, which also include how we communicate during the holidays. These include greetings and "polite words," commenting on activities or events, or requesting to participate. Below are a few common core words and ways they can be used during special events.

Greetings: hello/goodbye, please and thank you

Commenting: look (at the festive lights), go (eat, sing, read), big (turkey),

Requesting: want (to decorate), play (new game), more (food, music),

Fringe Words

There are many unique fringe words related to holidays that can be added to or are already programmed on AAC devices. There may be a folder full of holiday fringe vocabulary that doesn’t get used often, because the holiday is only once a year. However, this may be a great opportunity to use them! These fringe words may be used to initiate a conversation about a special event, comment on different holiday topics, or request to participate in special activities.

Examples of a few fringe words for Thanksgiving may be turkey, pie, football, thankful.

Social Questions and Comments

Many AAC devices have social questions, or words that allow an individual to create social questions, programmed on them. Individuals who use AAC can lead or participate in conversations surrounding the special events, as well as conversations about favorite foods, sports teams, or TV shows or more.

If you think about a typical conversation during a meal around a holiday (we hope they are peaceful!), there is likely a mix of holiday-related and non-holiday-related topics. Social questions an individual may ask or answer can include both holiday-related and non-holiday-related topics.

Some examples of questions may be:

What is your favorite part of [this special event]?

What is your favorite [food, sport, current Netflix show]?

What do you like to do for fun?

What do you think of ____?


Adding actual photos to AAC devices and accompanying captions allows individuals to share some of their recent favorite events or hobbies with other family members. We know that “pictures tell a thousand words” and they can also be used as a conversation topic or starter. For example, if an individual built a really cool Lego creation, or painted a nice picture at school, a photo can be taken and added to their AAC device. Captions may also be added to provide more information about the photos.


Telling jokes is a fun way for individuals using AAC to engage with others. A quick Google search of appropriate or children’s holiday jokes can provide many funny options that can be added to individual’s AAC devices. There are also many AAC softwares that contain pre-programmed jokes and punchlines (e.g., in TouchChat with WordPower you can find them in the Social or Groups folder)!


Many AAC devices have the capability to add .mp3 or music files to devices. Individuals can play seasonal or holiday songs using their AAC devices to provide entertainment for themselves and others! Who doesn’t have a favorite holiday song or jingle?

Pre-recorded longer messages

Typically, AAC devices are programmed with single words or 2-3 word phrases on a single button. However, in some special events, there may be benefits for including an entire sentence or sentences on a single button. This may include a specific prayer or saying. An individual can say or lead a prayer using their AAC device.

We hope that you find some of these suggestions helpful and are able to include them in some of your future special events and celebrations!

Citations/further resources: