Project Aim:

  • Develop a comprehensive implementation program for the delivery of Universal Core vocabulary instruction and augmentative communication supports using the multi-tiered system for augmenting language (mSAL).


  • Teach students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex communication needs to use symbols included on augmentative communication systems to communicate with a variety of people for a variety of needs.
  • Create and evaluate the mSAL with Universal Core vocabulary.
  • Develop intervention and assessment tools for teachers, related service providers, and other classroom staff to effectively implement the mSAL with Universal Core vocabulary.

Target Groups:

  • StudeStudent looking at a core vocabulary boardnts with significant cognitive disabilities who do not yet use speech, signs or symbols to meet a broad range of communication needs with a range of communication partners.
  • Teachers, related service providers, and other classroom staff who are providing instruction to students with significant cognitive disabilities who can benefit from using symbols to communicate.


  • The intervention approach is informed by Mary Ann Romski and Rose Sevcik’s System for Augmenting Language (SAL) (1996, 2006).
  • Tier I of the mSAL approach calls for modeling the use of symbols combined with explicit teaching of the Universal Core vocabulary during meaningful interactions throughout the school day.
  • Tiers 2 and 3 of the mSAL approach offer specialized and individualized vocabulary and instruction.

Implementation Program Components:

  • Student using core vocabulary on a communication deviceThe Universal Core vocabulary will be provided in multiple formats and levels of complexity to meet the diverse sensory and physical needs of students.
  • The final implementation model will include professional development resources and materials; tools to guide data-driven decisions; coaching supports; self-assessments and fidelity checklists.

Intended Outcomes:

  • Improvements in student communication abilities as measured by changes in level on the Communication Matrix (Rowland, 2015) and analysis of language samples collected throughout the school day.
  • Increase in practitioner use of the mSAL approach as measured by self-evaluations, observations and fidelity checklists.
  • Academic gains for students as measured by pre/post literacy assessments and end of year alternate assessments.


Romski, M. A., Sevcik, R. A., Cheslock, M., & Barton, A. (2006). The System for Augmenting Language: AAC and Emerging Language Intervention. In R. McCauley & M. Fey (Eds.) Treatment of Language Disorders in Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. A. (1996). Breaking the Speech Barrier: Language Development through Augmented Means. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Rowland, C. (2015). Online Communication Matrix [Web site]. Portland, OR: Oregon Health & Science University, Design to Learn Projects Website: