Avonworth School District News Article

Playgrounds Add Communication Boards

A unique new learning tool is a welcome addition to several Avonworth School District playgrounds. It’s called a communication board. These boards are adorned with colorful symbols or pictures to be used by children with limited expressive language ability.
This idea came to life thanks to Avonworth mom Christina Abernethy and her son Ethan. Ethan is a funny, kind, and outgoing sixth grader at Avonworth Elementary School. He is autistic and has apraxia of speech, making it difficult for him to produce verbal words. He is able to say some words verbally, but he needs assistance with other forms of communication. He uses an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device or “talker” and sign language to help him express himself. He is one of several students in the district that uses one.
Ethan’s mom came up with the idea of the communication board after seeing it on social media and was instrumental in the design for each of the playgrounds. She worked with Avonworth’s speech-language pathologist and Dr. Miller and Dr. Battisone on creating the design that was friendly to all students.  
There are two communication boards at the Primary Center and two at the Elementary School. They are placed in accessible areas of the playgrounds for all students to use them. These boards are not just for children like Ethan, but for all students to be able to communicate with their peers. Students are encouraged to talk to a new friend and use the communication board to include them in their conversations. 
Mrs. Abernethy is excited to know that all students now have a way of communicating with each other while playing outside. She says that their family is extremely grateful to the Avonworth School District for listening to the concerns she had about inclusion on the playground. 

“The communication boards with braille create a more inclusive and accessible space for all children to feel a sense of belonging. We are looking forward to them helping students connect with each other for many years to come,” said Mrs. Abernethy.

The communication boards were printed at Graphics 22 Signs in Pittsburgh.

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