Communication board aims to help Northshore students

Josh FloryOur Town Kids, West Knox

Students at Northshore Elementary School have a new communication tool, thanks to support from the school’s Parent Teacher Association.

Last Wednesday, Northshore unveiled a Playground Communication Board, which uses visual images to help students who struggle to communicate verbally.

The project was led by Lauren Broyles, a speech language pathologist at the school, who said the goal is to help students who have a hard time using their words, have complex communication needs or are learning English.

“We’re hoping this will be a way to increase their communication, help teachers do some detective work and decrease frustration,” Broyles said. “Research shows that pictures really increase verbal output, so that’s what we’re trying to give them an opportunity to do.”

A mock-up of Northshore Elementary’s new Playground Communication Board was on display inside the school last Wednesday, highlighting a variety of visual cues that will be included.

The board includes more than a dozen pictures with captions such as “I want,” “Play basketball,” “Bathroom” and “Nurse.”

Broyles said she found the idea this summer on a blog, and the school was eager to install it during October, which is Augmentative and Alternative Communication Month. The project was funded by the school’s Parent Teacher Association.

While rain showers forced Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting  to take shelter under a tent, students and families still seemed excited about the new playground tool.

Lisa Jerden, a PTA member who has twins in the fifth grade, said one of her children has special needs.

“Language doesn’t always come easy for him,” she added. “Having alternative types of communication
is very helpful for him, especially on a playground, which is a social time.”

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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