ADAMS TOWNSHIP — It can be frustrating or upsetting for anyone, let alone a child, when they aren’t understood.
In an effort to assist its non-verbal and speech- and language-delayed students, Clinton-Massie has installed communication boards with symbols on the two elementary playgrounds.
The illustrations on the communication boards serve to prompt and expand utterances that would likely be used on the playground. And they will allow staff to point to symbols to help students understand directions, to model how to use language on the playground, and also to interact with the children during recess.
“They [boards] will allow students who are feeling frustrated to have symbols and words right in the moment, that they are familiar with, that they can use to tell staff and peers how they feel or what they would like to do, and therefore likely avoiding the unwanted behaviors caused by the communication breakdown,” said Jessica Crawford, a preschool and elementary speech therapist at Clinton-Massie.
The communication boards also will encourage inclusiveness by showing other students another way to communicate with their fellow non-verbal or speech- and language-delayed peers, she said.
“This project was near to my heart being one of the two speech and language pathologists in the district. We have seen an increase in our younger, non-verbal and speech- and language-delayed population in this past school year. With the help of a private donation, this dream was made possible,” said Crawford.
A social media post from a speech-language pathologist in another state led Crawford to the idea of the playgrounds boards.
“I knew when I saw hers, that it was exactly what I wanted for our district. This was what our students needed and deserved,” she said.
Creating the boards from an existing template, the icons that Clinton-Massie typically uses were then picked out and others were added which the students are familiar with.
“We have used icons and picture systems similar to the ones installed within our school and within our speech therapy sessions,” Crawford explained.
“I was then able to work with a local sign company, Chad Abbott Signs, and one of their graphic designers, Mikayla Hughes, to make edits and really see the process of this dream come to life,” said Crawford.
Expensive speech communication devices — speech-generating devices that allow a person to press symbols to “speak” words out loud — may of course get broken outside on an active playground, another reason to have communication boards.
On a deeper level, the CM speech therapist said the ability to communicate is fundamental to humans.
“Being able to express your wants and needs, tell someone you love them, make a choice, or ask for directions is an essential part of everyday life that most of us take for granted. We know that lack of communication with others can lead to depression, and in our smaller population, to frustration and unwanted behaviors,” Crawford said.
To find out more about communication icons, boards, or devices, you can visit the website exploreaac.com .