As a speech language pathologist, I have seen firsthand how important it is for healthcare facilities, particularly pediatric clinics, to create inclusive environments for their patients. This includes providing access to tools and resources that can help children with communication difficulties interact with their caregivers, healthcare providers, and other children. One such tool that can greatly benefit children with speech and language challenges is a communication board.
A communication board is a visual tool that can be used by non-speaking children to communicate. It can also be used to help children with limited speech and language skills communicate with others. It typically consists of a series of images that represent common words, phrases, and activities. Children can point to these symbols to express their wants, needs, and feelings, even if they are unable to articulate them verbally. The selection of which images appear on each board depend on a series of factors. In the case of fixed shared use boards, the location of where the board will be place is one of those factors.
In pediatric clinics, waiting rooms can be particularly stressful for children and their families. All children have experiences feeling anxious before a visit to their pediatrician. After all, that’s where we go to get shots, get pocked on our noses and mouths. Children with communication difficulties may feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the sensory stimulation, unfamiliar surroundings, and lack of structure in waiting areas. Adding a communication board to the waiting room can provide a sense of comfort and control for these children, helping them feel more at ease and able to participate in activities with their peers.
Here are some key reasons why pediatric clinics should consider adding a communication board to their waiting room:
- Accessibility for Children with Different Communication Needs or Communication Difficulties
Pediatrician offices see the youngest of children. Some who are still developing their vocabulary, some who are non-speaking, and some with language disorders. All of these children would benefit from having access to pictures that represent meaning they may not be able to express verbally. These are not limited to words such as vaccine, hurt, anxious, afraid. A communication board provides a visual aid to help these children navigate the waiting room environment and communicate with others. By providing a tool that is accessible to all children, clinics can create a more inclusive environment and help children feel more confident and capable.
- Encourages Communication and Social Interaction
Waiting rooms can be a prime opportunity for children to practice their communication and social skills. Rather than offering a TV, why not offer a communication board? By adding a communication board to the waiting room, clinics can encourage children to interact with each other and with their caregivers. Children can use the board to initiate conversations, ask questions, and participate in group activities. This can help build confidence and social skills, which can translate to other areas of their lives.
- Provides a Sense of Control and Comfort
For children with communication difficulties, waiting rooms can be overwhelming and unpredictable. By providing a communication board, clinics can help these children feel more in control of their surroundings and more comfortable in the waiting room environment. They can make requests to turn down the TV, point to the picture when the room is too loud, or when they need to use the restroom. Rather than always waiting for caregivers to guess what they need every second. This can reduce anxiety and stress, making the waiting room experience more positive for both children and their caregivers.
- Helps Children Prepare for Appointments
Many children with communication difficulties may feel anxious or uncertain about their appointments with healthcare providers. By providing a communication board in the waiting room, clinics can help children prepare for their appointments and understand what to expect. Children can use the board to ask questions, express concerns, and practice vocabulary related to their medical needs. This can help reduce anxiety and increase cooperation during appointments. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a child could just point to the picture “injection” to ask if they were getting a shot? This would relieve the anxiety of many yearly checkups. Many of which do not include needles.
- Demonstrates Commitment to Inclusion and Diversity
Adding a communication board to the waiting room is a simple but powerful way for clinics to demonstrate their commitment to inclusion and diversity. By providing a tool that is accessible to all children, regardless of their speech and language abilities, clinics can send a message that they value and respect the unique needs and perspectives of their patients and families.
In conclusion, adding a communication board to the waiting room of pediatric clinics can have a significant impact on the experience of children with communication difficulties and their families. By providing a visual aid that is accessible and inclusive, clinics can help children feel more comfortable, confident, and in control during their visits. Moreover, by demonstrating a commitment to inclusion and diversity, clinics can create a welcoming and supportive environment that benefits all patients and families.
Barbara Fernandes, M.S CCC-SLP
Smarty Symbols Founder