CVES™ – Core Vocabulary Exchange System® – Boardmaker® Intermediate Medium (105)


CVES™ combines core vocabulary and picture exchange into one robust system that is both an interactive communication board and a language teaching tool!

CVES™ is a low-tech, durable, two-way AAC communication platform that incorporates picture exchange and core vocabulary. It was created to help students develop functional communication skills beyond simple requests or labeling, such as "I want" or "I see." CVES™ may be used as a stand-alone AAC system dedicated to a child, or it may be used as a language teaching tool for children who have some verbal speech. Use CVES™ to help transition a child to verbal speech with extensive use, or as a bridge to a high-tech communication device. Ages 3 and up. Made in the USA.

Children who have developed splinter communication skills whether they are using low- or high-tech communication devices may be lacking in functional communication skills as well as understanding the reciprocity of language where communication is happening between a communication partner and a receiver. CVES™ provides one robust system that incorporates core vocabulary and picture exchange to teach language reciprocity and encourage Spontaneous Novel Utterance Generation (SNUG). CVES™ can also be used in a group setting to teach language concepts and expressive language as well as grammar and syntax.

How It Began:

  • CVES™ creator, Megan Brazas, discusses her motivation for developing CVES™ and how this dynamic system can be used as a language teaching tool for children who have some verbal speech, or it can be used as a stand-alone AAC system dedicated to a child.

See How It Works:

In this series of videos, see how to use CVES™ as a language teaching tool to accomplish:

  • Single Icon Exchange
  • Two Word Combinations 
  • Three Picture Icon Exchange
  • Consistent Motor Planning
  • And much more!

CVES™ has seven (7) main purposes:

  • Creates a two-way exchange of information. CVES™ allows the student to take both the role of communication partner as well as listener. The student my initiate the interaction by affixing icons to the Core Communication Card and passing it to the clinician. Or, the clinician my initiate an interaction and the student now takes the role of listener and is able to respond by using the system. This creates a communication loop of multiple exchanges between a student and the clinician or parent.

  • Encourages Spontaneous Novel Utterance Generation (SNUG). SNUG allows students to say what they want, when they want both in symbols and oral communication. That means using single words, two-word combinations, three-word combinations, and working across grammar structures and syntax structures. SNUG was originally introduced by Dr. Katya Hill (Achieving Success in AAC: Assessment and Intervention).

  • Promotes motor automaticity! Just as in a high-tech device, there should be a consistent motor plan of icons in a child's system. In CVES™, the patented icons are removable and returnable to the same location, held securely by hook and loop fastening, and organized by color-coding. This helps the motor plan as well as the convergence of language to help create motor automaticity for each word as the hand movements become the tongue, lip, and jaw for grammar and syntax.

  • Targets multiple functions of language. Language is used for many purposes aside from requesting. CVES™ allows students to use language to direct others, to comment, to ask for help or assistance, to indicate when they are done with something (cessation), and to protest or reject something they don't want. CVES™ can start a child working on multiple functions of language at the same time.

  • Aided Language Input. Helps pair speech with the meaning of the icon. As the clinician provides the student with more receptive input, he or she is more likely to use the system expressively. CVES™ also allows the clinician to select the correct teaching tool based on the specific needs of the child: Aided Language Input, Pivotal Response Training, Backward Chaining, or others.

  • Aids in behavioral regulation. CVES™ targets different functions of language to assist with behavioral regulation. The top four functions are requesting, indicating cessation, requesting assistance, and protesting or rejecting.

  • Facilitates receptive & expressive joint attention. CVES™ can be used to improve eye gaze referencing between icons and the communication partner, or between a preferred object, an icon, and the communication partner.


  • Backup device. CVES™ is also an ideal "backup" communication device if a high-tech system is unavailable.

CVES™ is available with either Boardmaker® icons or Pixon™ icons.

The symbols used in the CVES™ program can be purchased as either Boardmaker® icons or Pixon™ icons. The design of either symbol set has the look and feel (visual as well as symbol sets being used) of high tech electronic devices allowing for a smooth transition to a high tech system when it is determined appropriate. 

Ages: 3 and up. This would also be applicable for nonverbal adults due to TBI or Stroke. Made in the USA.

  • Yellow = People and Pronouns
  • Red = Food and Drink
  • Blue = Feelings (real photos)
  • Light Blue = Adjectives/Descriptors and Art
  • Dark Green = Sensory
  • Green = Verbs
  • Teal = Time
  • Pink = Social
  • White = Question and Grammar Word
  • Orange = Nouns and Descriptors
  • Purple = Prepositions

Additional Photos

What's Included

Some assembly required. However, no laminating, scissors, or glue needed! All icons come as organized, preprinted sheets of durable vinyl that are perforated to snap apart for easy set-up. 

Start by choosing a CVES™ Foldout:

  • Boardmaker® Intermediate Medium - 105 icon count (icon size: 1" x 1.25")  
  • Boardmaker® Advanced Small - 189 icon count (icon size: 0.75" x 0.85")  
  • Pixon™ Advanced Small - 189 icon count (icon size: 0.75" x 0.85")  

Click Here To Select Your Version

Need help deciding? Watch this short video to learn more about the different options available.

Along with the CVES™ Foldout, you will receive:

  • Communication 3-Ring Binder
    • Attached carrying handle.
    • Hex key to lock the 3-ring binder.
  • Binder Stand
  • Foldout (your choice of 1 of the 4 options listed above)
    • Each Foldout contains basic core vocabulary.
    • 105 Word List (icon size: 1" x 1.25") 
    • 189 Word List (icon size: 0.75" x 0.85")  
  • Core Communication Card
  • Masking Icons 
    • 2 sheets (70 blank Icons) for the 105 Foldout (icon size: 1" x 1.25").
    • 1 sheet (63 blank Icons) for the 189 Foldout (icon size: 0.75" x 0.85").
  • Binder Tabs with Icons (icon size: 1" x 1.25")
    • Food (Drink)
    • Social (Social Phrases)
    • Sensory
    • Health
    • Art
    • Play
    • People
    • Miscellaneous
  • Stickers for customization on the Miscellaneous Binder Tab Icons.
  • First & Then Card
  • Visual Schedule
    • Board with 140 Icons (icon size: 1" x 1.25")
  • Hook & Loop Fastening with instructions for completely assembly.
  • Implementation Training Videos
  • Downloadable & Reproducible Materials/Data Sheets

Target Audience

For ages 3 and up. This would also be applicable for nonverbal adults due to TBI, Dementia, Stroke, etc.


Megan Brazas

Megan Brazas, MA, CCC-SLP, QOM, is a speech-language pathologist, credentialed early intervention provider, and holds a State of Illinois teaching license. She has extensive experience in working with children with complex communication needs, including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, rare medical conditions, and complex orthopedic impairments. Additionally, Megan has experience evaluating and treating a variety of speech and language conditions including apraxia of speech and she is PROMPT Trained.

Megan speaks locally and nationally on topics such as core vocabulary, low-tech communication systems, functional communication, supporting communication in the special education setting, curriculum adaptations, behavior management for autism spectrum disorder, and typical language development. Megan’s contributions include presentations at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), Infintec, Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization, and local school districts. Megan is the creator of the Core Vocabulary Exchange System® (CVES™), a low-tech core vocabulary based communication system which aligns with typical language development, published by Northern Speech Services.

Presenter Disclosures:

Financial — Megan Brazas is presenter of online CE courses sponsored by Northern Speech Services; receives royalties.

Financial — Megan Brazas is author and creator of the Core Vocabulary Exchange System® (CVES™) published by Northern Speech Services; receives royalties.

Nonfinancial — Megan Brazas has no relevant nonfinancial relationships to disclose.

Customer Reviews

"The CVES system has provided our patients with an easy and understandable way to communicate. Through this system, we have seen great progress and an increase in communication skills with many children." – M. Orsak, SLPA (Apr. 2019)

"Since attending the CEU course for CVES at the TSHA Convention, we have begun incorporating the system into our clinic’s daily sessions. The response from each child and their families is INCREDIBLE. I have never had kids respond as quickly as they are now using CVES! One parent has seen so much success that she is ordering a CVES for her child to use in all environments. We have many different children using CVES, and it is amazing to see their increased ability to communicate, have their needs met, and their newfound independence. In fact, one of our non-verbal children began immediately verbalizing the pre-constructed phrases. He quickly moved into making various phrases himself and saying each word in the phrase. We believe that he is beginning to read the words on each CVES icon even though he isn't familiar with them. This child only scripted during sessions and never independently/spontaneously produced words or phrases for functional, purposeful speech until the introduction of CVES!” - Kate Permenter, MS, CCC-SLP, Beyond Words, PLLC (Mar. 2019)

"CVES has made it easier for me to teach and train core words in the classroom. By marrying Picture Exchange with Core/Fringe words in one system, my students are better able to develop a functional communication system while learning basic concepts, sight words, and sentence structure. I also love the durability of the picture cards--they can handle pretty much anything." – B. Wood, MHS, CCC-SLP/L, Chicago Public Schools (Mar. 2019)

"I used CVES in my first-fourth grade cluster classroom for students who require moderate supports. I have a full class of 13 students; 4 students use a form of AAC to support communication (3 PECS users and 1 LAMP user), and the remaining 9 students primarily use verbal language to communicate but benefit from the use of visuals to support their messages. All have used core boards during small group lessons. I incorporated CVES in the context of small group academic and social lessons. Students used CVES to comment on a read aloud, answer questions, and describe illustrations. They requested preferred play items and direct play for example 'Want bubbles down' with CVES. Students also used CVES to tell how characters in a book felt or how the student was feeling. They also used social phrases in CVES during play activities like 'Wow,' 'Awesome,' and 'Yay!' When leading a CVES lesson, I used aided language stimulation with ease and students were very responsive to cues to use CVES as well. I am currently in week 4 of a 6-week literacy unit where we are focusing on writing. I'm incorporating CVES each week to model building sentences from the text we read or about the text. Students find a page in the text they'd like to write about. I find a sentence in the text, and we work together to construct the sentence using CVES. Afterward, I write the sentence on a whiteboard modeling sentence mechanics. By the end of the week, students are ready to copy the sentence from a model or construct their own sentences using a core vocabulary word bank. Overall, CVES has benefitted all levels of students in my classroom, and I see endless possibilities for future lessons that could incorporate CVES." – S. Tabatsalis, LBS1-Mod/Aut(Int), Chicago Public Schools (Mar. 2019)

"This system is so functional...I absolutely love it! – SLP (Feb. 2019)

"I've successfully used this with a kiddo who demonstrated success with a core word approach but had difficulty with attending to/activating/being motivated by anything high tech. He also had difficulty understanding communicative intent (clearly splinter skilled!). I thought this was a great step in teaching core vocabulary with some more "PECS"-like methods for teaching intent, etc. My hope was with some mastery of the core symbols and communicative intent, he'd ultimately transition to high tech!" – J. Salley, SLP (Oct. 2018)

"CVES is a no tech solution with robust language. So different from PECS...and much better, IMO. Great for transitioning from no tech to mid-tech to high tech with consistency of icons, core, Fitzgerald key, and more." – B. Speaker-Christensen, SLP (Oct. 2018)

"Thank YOU for creating this system. I think that there are so many amazing high-tech communication devices out there, but not so many low-tech options that are as complete and flexible as your CVES. You really have made a giant contribution to the AAC world, and I am grateful for your invention. The CVES really helps my daughter, Addie, to focus on understanding and expressing communication without an electronic distraction. All in all, I think Addie's understanding and expression of language is increasing with the CVES. She definitely wants to talk and interact with people more than she used to which is great to see. Thank you so much!" – W. Olberg, Parent (Aug. 2018)

Using this product? Please email us with your review.

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