Communication Boards in the Classroom
Working with young children with verbal apraxia in a
preschool classroom poses many challenges. However, as we all know, there are
also numerous opportunities for creative problem solving, especially with various
technology and software programs at our fingertips. Today I would like to share
a technique that has proven to be quite successful in the classroom setting. I
call it our "Communication Board," which I created using Boardmaker® pictures.
Here is an example of one of the most recent boards:
As you can see from the picture, the very first symbol (if you're
reading from left to right starting at the top) is of a small child with the
word "I" above it. I did this purposefully to help with language acquisition,
sentence structure development and even pre-literacy skills. Now when the children
are using it, they can successfully begin to develop familiar and empowering
phrases of "I want ____" or "I do not want ____."
When choosing the symbols for the board I picked concepts
that mirrored the curriculum and routine of the classrooms. For example, at the
bottom there are three emotion pictures - happy,
sad and angry - which have been the recent focus of the classroom teacher's
social stories. I gave those three pictures a blue background to help them to
stand out from the others visually.
How Does It Work?
To help the children in the classroom understand how to use
the board efficiently, I taught group lessons to ALL the students in the room,
even to the well-spoken, effective communicators. The thought behind this was that if
one of the children with apraxia is trying to tell one of the "well-spoken"
children "It's my turn" by pointing to the picture, it's important that that other
child knows what that picture means!
During my lesson with them, we identified what all of the
picture symbols are AND we talked about how to use them. It was fascinating to
me how ALL the children enjoyed learning about the board and even our "good
talkers" wanted to use it!
In addition to talking to the children about the board, I
also made several color copies, laminated them and strategically placed them
around the classroom so that all children could access them. Additionally,
I gave individual boards to a select few children who are unable to express
themselves verbally so that they will always have a way to communicate.
Lastly, I made additional copies for parents of children
with verbal apraxia on my caseload and sent them home with a note explaining
what we are doing and how to use it.
...has been tremendous! Parents are excited for an additional
tool to use at home and are happy that we are using it in school. We have seen behavior
issues diminish as the children have a quick and functional way to get their
And last but definitely not least, we have seen an
increase in effective communication within the classroom. The boards are
socially accepted and encouraged by all, so all the children gladly use them.
They are listening to each other more and it has brought positive attention to
the power of words with the help of pictures!