Many students that I have worked with are able to acquire a basic vocabulary. They are able to understand and use common words that are very concrete and easy to represent with a visual image. Often these basic words are what is used to derive meaning from longer utterances whose meaning is more abstract and complex. Frequently, when they respond to and use speech in dialogue, the connected utterances give the impression that they have full receptive and expressive competence at that level when in fact they do not. This may in part be due to some echolalic and hyperlexic tendancies that allow them to retain and use longer utterances without a clear understanding of the nuanced meaning derived from the specific word relationships. Their core vocabulary is often sparse and limited in scope for a specific topic. There is frequently limited understanding of how words are related to convey meaning, especially in more abstract and complex language. Often giving specific attention to a variety of word relationships can be a powerful way to build communication competence.
My students may acquire vocabulary to name a specific object or photo that is presented to them. Making the connection that there are similar items that bare the same name is a much harder task for them. When teaching new words it may be helpful to present several versions of the target in different media formats and with varied sensory aspects. Related information with regard to basic concepts, functions and categories and the language that describes these aspects can help make important connections. Placing an item within a typical event with attention to setting and people may be another helpful strategy. Selecting typical iconic representations of words within typical events and scenarios can often insure a high degree of redundancy in day to day experiences.