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Community Communication Boards

It is an exciting time around the globe where people with disability are finally being represented across mainstream platforms, highlighted for their contributions and recognised in our communities. With this recognition comes an awareness and education about differently abilities, adjustments that an individual may need to achieve their goals and what one may need to participate inclusively in the community. Excitingly as part of this movement, we are now seeing changes in our community spaces, such as - Communication Boards.

What is a Communication Board and what is it used for? A communication board is a board with symbols or pictures that is used to facilitate communication for children or adults with limited expressive language ability. The individual will communicate using the board by pointing and gesturing or gazing at the various symbols and pictures. These communication boards usually are first introduced in the home as a way for one to communicate their core wants and needs - such as drink, sleep or eat. As ones language and comprehension more pictures and/or symbols may be added to better communicate their own ideas and opinions. We are now seeing the introduction of these Communication Boards in our community spaces, such as parks, playgrounds and schools, allowing individuals with communication difficulties the opportunity to access a shared communication platform in every day social situations. What benefit does a Communication Board provide? Communication is a Human Right. The Communication Bill of Rights says that every individual should have the opportunity to - Ask for what they want

- Share how they are feeling

- To be heard and responded to, even though the answer may be no

- To have and use my speech system all of the time

- To be taught how to communicate

- To be communicated with in a sensitive manner

- To be spoken with, not about

- To be treated with respect and dignity

- To be a full and equal member of my community

- To have my speech system in working order and to have a backup

- To ask and know about my schedule and world

- To ask for and get attention and interaction

- To be given real choices

- To say No, refuse and reject choices The communication board for many individual services their individual communication rights. In addition to this however, there are many other positive benefits of a communication board, particularly when used in community such as - The opportunity to access their communication needs to common community spaces - The opportunity to develop their communication skills in new environments - The opportunity to build independence in their communication needs

- The opportunity to have a shared communication method with their peers and develop social skills Are Communication Boards just for individuals with disability? Absolutely not. Communication boards are a great tool for all abilities to communicate, but there are also many other varieties of communication boards that may also appeal to children who have developmental delays, communication challenges, social anxiety or just general shyness to initiate conversations. Inclusive Services WA recently completed a Let's Talk! Board for one of our participants to support the development of her social conversational skills in the playground at school with her peers.

Let's Talk! Boards are another great tool that can support individuals to start a conversation with others using a mode that is easy to understand, accessible and engaging, allowing children to develop social relationships with their peers and ultimately promoting inclusion among all abilities.

The Let’s Talk! Board contains a series of questions or statements that prompt conversation, for those who may lose their words in the moment or have trouble thinking of ways to keep the conversation going. These communication boards will support individuals in initiating conversations with peers, navigating social situations, and expressing themselves! It showcases 9 fixed questions/ statements and 2 blank bubbles for adding new additions along the way as language and interests grow. These questions can be adapted/personalised during design, or the board may be purchased as is. How to use the Communication Boards 1. Place in an easily accessible, common area in your school, classroom, playground, or community. Secure to a wall or fixed stand for protection. 2. The idea of the boards is that a child/adult might point to the symbols to ask for, talk about, or direct activities. 3. Then a friend, parent or teacher could use the symbols to answer them or take a turn about something else. It’s just like talking with symbols.

It is important to note that if you do have verbal speech, you can still talk while pointing to the symbols. Using the symbols helps to get the message across clearly, or can be an alternative to speech if someone has a communication disability. 4. If the individual can’t independently go over to the board and point to the symbols, you might like to Point to (and/or read out) the messages and ask them to tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when you get to the one they want to say. After they choose one, ask if they are done or want to add another word, otherwise you might only get half of the message. Extra Tips:

· Use the board yourself to talk to the individual. Doing this will help them learn how it can be used for lots of different messages. It also shows them that it’s a good way to talk about things and to help them learn what all of those symbols mean.

· Don’t make them use the board if you already know what they are saying. This board is designed to enhance communication, not make them tell you something you already know.

· Encourage other children to use it with them. There is nothing more motivating than seeing other children valuing and using something that you need to use. The individual will likely want to copy the messages they see others saying, or at least feel like they are not the only one using this board.

· The other benefit of encouraging other children to use the board is that they will always come up with more interesting messages. Children are not only good models for physical activity, but also for fun and interesting things to say.

Would you like more information about communication boards or designing one for your community space? We would love to help! simply email


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