Saturday, April 23, 2011

Apraxia Therapy: Communication Boards

Young children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech are often very frustrated, have very few words, and are resorting to gestures to try to get what they want. Often those gestures are not effective and their frustration just continues to increase. They can begin to give up trying to communicate. You want to give them some success at communicating and reduce their frustration. Communication boards are a great way to achieve these goals.

What are Communication Boards?

A communication board for a young child is simply a set of pictures placed in an area accessible to the child. The purpose of the communication board is to allow the child to communicate successfully without needing speech. Communication boards are considered to be a low technology form of augmentative and alternative communication.

Why would I give my child a Communication Board? Don't I want him/her to talk?

Yes, you absolutely want your child to learn to talk. Teaching your child with apraxia to talk is your long term goal. Communication boards can solve several problems in the meantime and get you closer to that goal.
  • Communication boards reduce frustration. When your child can successfully communicate with you they will be less frustrated and happier.
  • Communication boards teach your child about language and communication. If your child has no words, or very few words, they have not had the opportunity to learn how powerful and easy communication can be. Once they get a taste of successfully and easily communicating, they will want to learn more.
  • Communication boards increase vocabulary. Every picture you include on your communication boards is a word you are hoping they will eventually learn.
  • Communication boards encourage speech. Over time, your child may naturally try to vocalize the word as they point to a picture. Research has shown that this often happens. Therefore your communication boards can be a gateway to speech.

How are Communication Boards used?

Place the communication board on the wall in an appropriate area of your home at a height that is easy for your child to see and point to. You want them to actually be able to run over to the wall and touch the picture of the item or activity they want on the board.

For example, let's take snack time. You can't ask your child, "What would you like to have for snack today?" They don't have the words to answer you. So you put a snack time communication board up on the wall in the kitchen. The communication board has pictures of all of your child's favorite drinks and snacks. At snack time, you can now ask them, "What would you like to have for snack today? Go show me." Your child simply walks over to the board, enjoys looking at all the options, and points to what he or she wants.

How do I design and make a Communication Board?

First you need to identify topics your child would want to communicate about. Be creative in thinking about possible topics for communication boards. Possibilities include:
  • Food and drink items posted in the kitchen.
  • Television shows they can choose from posted in the living room near the television.
  • Table activities they can choose from (coloring, painting, puzzles, games, etc.) posted near the kitchen table or a play table if they have one.
  • Favorite toys posted in their play area.
  • Items of clothing, hair accessories, etc. posted in their bedroom.

Now you're ready to plan your communication boards. Write out a list of the specific items you want to include on each board. I would put no more than six to eight pictures per board for a young child. So, for example, on a snack time board you might include milk, juice, animal crackers, grapes, banana, and cheerios. Pick items you actually use in your household. No two communication boards are ever the same because they are customized for your household and your child.

Once you have your list, you can make your board using one of several methods.
  1. You can take pictures of your household items, have the pictures developed, and cut them out and glue them to a backing (construction paper, posterboard, cardstock, even regular printer paper).
  2. You can cut pictures out of magazines and then glue them onto a backing.
  3. You can use a computer program like Microsoft Word and import pictures you've taken digitally or pictures you've found online to make your board and then print it.

Can you give me some examples of Communication Boards?

Here are a couple of communication boards we used in our house. I made both of them on the computer. The kitchen communication board I made with pictures I took of actual items in the house with my camera phone. The television communication board I made with images I found in Google image search.

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  1. This is a great, straightforward description of how and why to use communication boards! Thank you, and congratulations on your year. Ava has come so far!

    Megan (slp)

  2. Thank you for providing this info! I'm hoping it helps my 18 month old son who is not talking yet.


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