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Communication Boards

Communication Boards

What They Are

Communication boards make language visible and accessible for individuals who have speech impairments. These low-technology communication displays consist of photographs, symbols, words/phrases or a combination of all three. Typically, multiple communication boards are developed to address both specific and generic vocabulary needs in a variety of contexts.

Again, this strategy, if a match for a studentís needs, skills and existing strategies, can further expand a multi-modal communication system.

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What They're Not

  • Standardized
  • The same for every student
  • PECS – Picture Exchange Communication System
  • Unchangeable – they will need to change with the needs of the student
  • For nouns only – students need access to a variety of vocabulary and should be able to use a variety of communicative functions (e.g., requesting, asking questions, directing others, sharing opinions, etc.)
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How They Work

Students use communication boards as static displays from which to select vocabulary to establish topics and construct messages. Multiple boards can be organized into communication books with indexed categories of vocabulary and tabs for easy access to the particular topic board that is needed. Communication boards are used in combination with other aided and unaided systems and also serve as back-up when high technology systems fail or are unavailable. Boards can be designed in a variety of ways and used for a variety of purposes, including the following:

  • Core and/or fringe vocabulary
  • Visual scene displays, categories, parts of speech, carrier phrases plus single words, phrases/sentences
  • Basic layout or encoded with colors, numbers, etc., for alternative access
  • For direct communication or topic setting
  • Replicate a speech generating device or use a unique architecture

Cristian uses communication boards that he helped develop in order to set the topic for his writing assignment. The first page serves as a color-coded index that corresponds to tabbed pages with specific vocabulary.

Adapted from Reichle, Beukelman and Light, Exemplary Practices for Beginning Communicators, 2002.

For more information on developing communication boards with students, view the 2006 ASHA Schools Conference presentation, 'The Participatory Design of AAC Systems,' by Bridge School speech-language pathologists, Holly Hamilton and Elisa Kingsbury.

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