How Do Communication Boards Help Children?

Tools to help children with limited expressive language ability

Happy schoolboy looking at digital tablet in classroom
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A communication board is a board with symbols or pictures that is used to facilitate communication for children with limited expressive language ability. Children communicate using the board by pointing and gesturing or gazing at the various symbols and pictures. If your child has a disability that limits her ability to express herself, find out if a communication board can be included in her classrooms at school.

How Communication Boards Help Special Needs Children

If your child has either an individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, the need for a communication board can be included in the list of tools that the student requires functioning effectively in the classroom. Your family may find that your child needs a communication board at home as well. At its simplest, a communication board can simply consist of a yes/no board or a pencil and piece of paper. The main goal is allowing the child to communicate her needs.

Parents and children can attempt to make communication boards together as a bonding experience. There's no right or wrong way to create these boards. If that's not an option for you, a number of companies manufacture communication boards as well.

Outside of the Classroom

Communication boards aren't just used for children in the classroom but also adults with communication problems.

This includes stroke patients or patients with other medical conditions that affect their ability to express themselves.

Communication boards are particularly useful when such patients want to communicate to their medical team how they feel or what they need to keep them comfortable. A communication board is a low-tech way for people of all ages with communication difficulties to express themselves.

High Tech Communication Tools

Computer software programs or assistive technology devices also enable people with expressive language impairments to communicate with others. For example, a person with a communication impairment may push a button on a device that speaks for them. Some devices are so high tech that all a person has to do is blink and the device will speak for them.

The best devices give people a number of different ways to communicate. These are known as multimodal devices.

These high-tech communication tools have been cost prohibitive for many families, but today many mobile phones have apps that assist people with communication impairments. Your family's income level or the nature of your child's communication problem will ultimately decide if you choose to use a high tech or low tech communication tool.

Also, a person must have some degree of mental alertness to be able to use these communication tools effectively. In other words, if the individual has both a communication and cognitive impairment, she may not be able to use communication boards and assistive technology devices meaningfully. An augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device specialist should be able to assist you in choosing the communication device that's most suitable for your child or family member.

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