Fringe benefits!

What do these words have in common?

  • Horses
  • Chicks, Ducks, Geese
  • Surrey
  • Fringe
  • Shutters, Eyes, etc…

They are core words from the song “Surrey with the Fringe on the Top”. If Curly sang the lyrics using only fringe words, there wouldn’t be anything to sing about, however, It’s the fringe words that makes the song memorable. No pun intended. (The lyrics are at the bottom of the page. Descriptive language enables you to visualize as he sings.)

Why is this important? It’s important because we begin AAC with core words but often fail to introduce a fringe word vocabulary soon enough. For years, SLP’s asked what interested Jess. They wanted to program words that motivated her. I realize now that they only got it half right. They were focusing only on core words but without the fringe words, Jess lost interest and the AAC novelty wore off.

Jess had unsuccessfully used over a half-dozen AAC systems before finding Speak for Yourself. What made this app different from the rest? The Babble feature. She began with a half dozen core words open, but when she tapped Babble, it opened all the words that had been preprogrammed into SFY, core and fringe. Babble is a not so secret passage to a world that is language-rich and robust.

The first fringe word Jess opened was “exceptional”. For her, this is when the light went on. This is what had been missing. Everyone has their own vernacular and Jess is no different. She doesn’t want a hamburger, without condiments and she definitely wants ice cream with toppings! The fun is in the fringe.

To think, for many reasons, we nearly canceled our appointment to preview SFY. The most obvious reason was, I felt the words were too small (I was wrong). Jess could not isolate a finger and had the attention span of a gnat. Her AAC eval said she was not a candidate for any app that used an iPad (they suggested TouchChat because it wasn’t complex and the words were bigger. Because nothing else had worked, we didn’t have anything to lose by exploring.

What I know now that I didn’t know then is though the barriers were real, they were not permanent.

Adaptation is the key to success. Jess began with a full-sized iPad with a key guard,. She needed a stand because she couldn’t close her hand, her fingers would dangle, resulting in miss hits. She also miss hit a lot of words because her eyes were not WYSIWYG. In other words, she had no eye/hand coordination. However, when she finally did tap the word she was seeking, she’d stop and look at whoever she was with, expressing, “that is what I’ve been trying to say”.  When her needs were understood, this motivated her to practice (she’d go to another room and we could hear her modeling to herself. She’d play with the iPad like it was a game of Concentration. What we didn’t realize at the time was she was learning word placement). As important as any other feature, the iPad needed to be portable and hands free. Doesn’t do any good when it is put away in a book bag. All of these things were adaptations needed to be made in order for her to be successful.

Before the nine-month mark, her attention span grew and her fine motor improved. Presently (4 1/2 years later), Jess steals my iPhone when I’m not looking and opens apps, watches movies, podcasts and even will use tiny SFY (the iPhone version).

The problem with AAC apps that start out with larger words and scale down when they need room for more vocabulary is this changes the motor planning. This may not seem like a big deal, but the user needs to re-learn location.

Why am I writing about all of this now? It’s because a friend’s daughter was just told that they either get PQ2Go or get nothing (it’s the lack of choice that is upsetting, not the app). Because any program will fail if you don’t support it correctly. Because when you keep changing the button size, you mess up the motor planning. Because an AAC should have a robust language already programmed, ready and available. It’s so much harder to guess what words you think they may need and time consuming to add them.

And… because a surrey is more interesting when it has a fringe on the top!

Go ahead, sing this without the fringe words, or open the link at the top for the video, you will get my drift.

Surrey With the Fringe on Top lyrics


When I take you out tonight with me

Honey, here’s the way it’s gonna be

You will set behind a team of snow-white horses

In the slickest gig you’ll ever see.


Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry

When I take you out in the surrey

When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top

Watch that fringe an’ see how it flutters

When I drive them high-steppin’ strutters

Nosy pokes will peek through their shutters and their eyes will pop!


The wheels are yellow, the upholstery’s brown

The dashboard’s genuine leather.

With isinglass curtains you can roll right down

In case there’s a change in the weather


Two bright side-lights winkin’ and blinkin’

Ain’t no finer rig I’m a thinkin’

You can keep yer rig if yer thinkin’ that I’d keer to swap

Fer that shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top



Would you say the fringe was made of silk?



Wouldn’t have no other kind but silk!



Has it really got a team of snow-white horses?



One’s like snow, the other’s more like milk.

All the world’ll fly in a flurry

When I take you out in the surrey

When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top.

When we hit that road, hell-for-leather

Cats and dogs will dance in the heather


Birds and frogs’ll sing all together and the toads will hop!

The wind’ll whistle as we rattle along,

The cows’ll moo in the clover

The river will ripple out a whispered song,

And whisper it over and over 


Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

Don’t you wish you’d go on forever


And you’d never stop?

In that shiny little surrey 

With the fringe on the top.

I can see the stars gittin’ blurry

When we ride back home in the surrey

Ridin’ slowly home in the surrey 

With the fringe on top

I can feel the day gettin’ older

Feel a sleepy head near my shoulder

Noddin’, droopin’, close to my shoulder 

Till it falls – kerplop.


The sun is swimmin’ on the rim of the hill

The moon is takin’ a header.

And jist as I’m thinkin’ all the earth is still

A lark’ll wake up in the meader.

Hush, you bird. My baby’s a sleepin’

Maybe got a dream worth a keepin’

Whoa, you team an’ jist keep a creepin’ 

At a slow clip, clop.

Don’t you hurry little Surrey 

With The Fringe On the Top.

2 thoughts on “Fringe benefits!

  1. I don’t ever believe only one AAC should be allowed – some fit some people better than others. Everyone should have a chance to try to find the one that fits them best. But, it’s also important to keep up with AAC as it changes. Proloquo2Go does have extensive Core and Fringe vocabulary preprogrammed and there is no need to change button size to add words. There was actually a new feature added to Proloquo2Go Spring of 2017 called Progressive Language that allows starting with a grid with some buttons revealed and gradually revealing more buttons buttons on that grid in a systematic series of steps.
    So, if the school your friend’s daughter attends gives her access to Proloquo2Go, she will still have a robust AAC app.

    • Yes, you are correct that PQ2GO is a robust system, however, they have been taking their lead from
      Speak for Yourself. The most recent version gives the user a search button and “allows” for “explore mode” which is
      like the SFY Babble feature. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (from my perspective, this looks like patent infringement). However, the reason Speak for Yourself stands alone is that it is a two layer system. It’s important to have a robust language available, but the motor plan needs to be kept simple. This is why Jess’s previous AAC systems did not work for her.

      I’m not saying PQ2GO is not a viable AAC app but there’s a point where too many layers become a bottle neck, especially
      as vocabulary grows. When Jess stopped using her previous AAC device and was showing frustration, these were the warning signs that the
      speech system was not meeting her needs. Instead, school blamed her.

      What I most object to is when SLP’s decide on an app based on what is easiest for them (have everyone on the same system). When Jess was in school our SLP had multiple systems. Even the ones that were the same had been programmed differently.

      Unfortunately, there are still schools and SLP’s that have prerequisites for their students to be able to use an AAC device.
      Based on our AAC eval, Jess should never have been able to use an iPad because she didn’t have the “pre-requisite” skills.
      Makes you wonder how many people have done without or will be without a language system?
      Unfortunately, SLP’s are not required to take courses in AAC to graduate. It’s like expecting them to teach a foreign language
      that they don’t speak, much less understand. When people don’t fully understand something, answers tend to be no.
      PS- I regret naming PQ2GO in my post, it wasn’t my intention to speak negatively about. I was annoyed that the student was told: “either use this or you don’t get a voice”. This is so wrong.

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