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CVES™ and SNUG: What It’s All About!

Tell Me About SNUG!

SNUG is a term that stands for spontaneous novel utterance generation, and was originally introduced by Dr. Katya Hill (Achieving Success in AAC: Assessment and Intervention).  SNUG is based on access to the individual words, collocations, and commonly used phrases of our language.  SNUG allows a person to say anything anytime (Katya Hill).  For our children who are nonverbal or who use an AAC system such as CVES, SNUG implies that a child can say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it.  For a child who uses an AAC system, it is critical that their system provide a robust vocabulary which contains a variety of parts of speech, including pronouns, action words, location words, determiners, descriptors, social words, and nouns.   A combination of core and fringe vocabulary words allows a user to construct messages at their language level.  

One of the primary goals of using the Core Vocabulary Exchange System (CVES) is to facilitate spontaneous language at each user’s expressive language level by using removable and returnable icons.


It’s important to consider the ability for an AAC user to construct messages at different language levels.  Typical language development indicates that children move from single words, to two word combinations, to three word combinations, and this evolves into phrases and sentences.  An AAC system should mirror this progression.   If a child is speaking in single words or using single words on their AAC system, then the progression for expressive language would then be 2 word combinations.  Even more important is the need to establish a foundation at each language level before moving to a complex sentences.  For example, a child who can put together a two word combination such as “Daddy go” should learn a variety of 2-word combinations  on their AAC system before moving to 3 or 4 word combination (i.e. go now, I go, you go, go fast, go here, etc.) .    We also know that typical children do not predict what they are going to say across situations, instead they use SNUG when communicating.  When determining intervention and expressive language goals, we must establish a foundation at each language level before expecting a full sentence.  If an AAC system is primarily composed of pre-stored sentences and phrases, then the sentences may have little relevance to the actual conversations taking place.  The user may be limited in their ability to form spontaneous and novel utterances that relate to the topic at hand.

How do you target SNUG using CVES™?

We are using a relatively small set (400-500 core words) to speak to each other, but we can combine these words with fringe vocabulary words in novel ways across communication partners, contexts, and environments to teach SNUG.  SNUG implies that a person has access to a variety of single words, and in CVES™ these words are located on the CVES Core Vocabulary Foldout and Binder Inserts.  Icons on the CVES Core Vocabulary Foldout and Binder Inserts include a variety of  pronouns, verbs, descriptors, location words, social words, and fringe vocabulary, so that a child can combine both core and fringe vocabulary and develop spontaneous language.

Advanced Gate
Advanced Gate Fold Contains 119 Core Vocabulary Icons
CVES Binder Inserts contain over 100 fringe vocabulary icons with additional room  for customized icons

An emergent communicator may take core vocabulary icons directly off of the Core Vocabulary Foldout or Binder Insert to communicate at the single word level with a communication partner (use icons without the communication card).  For example, a child may take off the word “go” and give it to a communication partner before making a car go.   A child may take off the word “all done” and give it to a communication partner when they are finished eating a snack.

When a single word vocabulary has been established, intervention may target 2-word combinations on the communication card.  If an individual is working on two-word phrase, the user can remove icons from the Core Vocabulary Foldout and Binder Insert, put them onto the core communication card, and exchange the message to a communication partner.  A child who was previously working on the single word “go” can move onto 2-word grammar structures such as Noun – Verb (“I go” “Daddy go” “bus go”) or Verb – Noun (“Go daddy” “go car” “go here” “go home”).


Similarly, when a foundation of two-word combinations has been established, intervention may target 3 word combinations, such as noun + verb + noun (I want ipad, You do it, I eat cookie, you help me, you do it).

SNUG and Communicative Functions

SNUG also implies that an individual can use language spontaneously across communicative functions.  Many of our students may get “stuck” on a request or being able to label things in their environment; however, without learning a variety of communicative functions, they will not develop spontaneous and novel language.  The implication is that we can teach SNUG across communicative functions using CVES.  Being able to protest appropriately is a critical functional communication skill. We should always target SNUG across communicative functions such as:


Requesting Answers (i.e. What’s that? Where’s mom? What we eat today?)

Protesting (i.e. don’t do that, stop it, stop that, don’t want that)

Requesting Action (i.e. help, help me, I want help, Daddy help, put in, you put in,  car go, I want that)

Calling (i.e Mommy come, come here,  hi _____)

Answering (i.e. answering “I have airplane” when asked “What do you have? or “I eat cookie” when asked “What are you eating for snack?”)


We can use CVES™ to differentiate to each child’s language level, establish a foundation at each level, and then facilitate language learning at the next developmentally appropriate language level.





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