Pearl Sample Elementary School (PSES) has recently added communication boards to their three playgrounds at the school. "This is a great example of how we worked together to meet our kids where they are,” Principal Dan Birch said about this project.
PSES Speech and Language Pathologist Barbara Hastings spearheaded the effort to get the communication boards. She explained, “I really want to promote accessibility and inclusion in all areas in the school environment. The playground is often an overlooked area when considering these needs.”
With growing Special Education programs at Pearl Sample, the number of students who use alternative forms of communication is also growing. Ms. Hastings said, “For our students who have complex communication needs, it is really important to support their language growth in all settings at school, and this is a way that will be beneficial for other students, as well. Communication and learning happen everywhere for our students, and I'm happy to provide them access to these needed supports, even when they are on the playground.”
The new communication boards help to support students who use Alternative Augmented Communication (AAC) or who benefit from multi-modal communication, in addition to being a benefit for all students. The benefits that the communication boards offer include:
- Communication: Many of our students with disabilities benefit from visual communication systems. We have these in the classrooms, through pictures or devices, but for a variety of reasons, they often do not take their AAC devices outside with them, which limits their access to communication.
- Inclusion: How amazing would it be to see a student take a classmate with disabilities or who does not speak English over to the communication board and use it to say, "Want to play? Let's go!" This is inclusion, but it is also modeling language at its finest, which is how our students learn best.
- English Language Development: Even though they do not have disabilities, communication boards can support our English Learners as they are learning English. The boards have pictures and symbols in addition to words, so if they do not know a word in English, they may be able to find the picture and use it to communicate.
- Sight Words: The communication boards are filled with Core Vocabulary. These words are used across multiple settings/environments and for a variety of purposes. In reading, these words are sight words. Using the communication board increases student exposure to these words in purposeful communication opportunities.
Mr. Birch was grateful to everyone who had a part in making this project successful, “Many were involved in making this happen. Thanks to the special education department and our maintenance team as well," he said.
Ms. Hastings concluded, “Playground communication boards are becoming more prevalent at community parks, and it only makes sense to have them at our school playgrounds. The kids who need them the most are here every day!”