Playgrounds and school environments should be inclusive spaces that foster equal opportunities for all children to engage, communicate, and have fun. However, for non-verbal or minimally verbal individuals, this can pose challenges in expressing their needs, preferences, and desires during playtime. This is where communication boards play a vital role. A communication board is a powerful tool that empowers individuals to communicate using symbols, pictures, or words, facilitating meaningful interactions and enhancing inclusivity. In this article, we will explore various funding strategies and ideas to help schools and communities secure communication boards for their playgrounds, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to actively participate and engage in play.

By implementing communication boards in playgrounds, we can create a welcoming environment where all children, regardless of their verbal abilities, can express themselves, make choices, and collaborate with their peers. These boards not only benefit non-verbal individuals but also provide opportunities for other children to learn and expand their vocabulary, promoting language development and fostering a sense of understanding and acceptance among all children.

Whether you are a school administrator, a teacher, a parent, or a community member passionate about inclusive play, this article will provide you with practical insights, funding strategies, and resources to embark on your journey of securing a communication board for your school or playground. Let’s work together to create an inclusive space where every child can communicate, belong, and thrive.

Taking the 1st steps: Research and Planning to Determine the Costs

When embarking on the journey of securing a communication board for your school or playground, one of the crucial aspects to consider is the associated costs. The expenses can vary depending on factors such as materials, the extent of customizations, and the number of boards needed for each park. Conducting thorough research and planning will enable you to determine the exact funding required for your project.

Working with a reputable company like Smarty Symbols can greatly simplify the process of obtaining a quote for your specific needs. Smarty Symbols specializes in creating custom communication boards and offers a range of options to suit various requirements. By collaborating with their team, you can discuss your vision, desired customizations, and the number of boards needed. This will allow Smarty Symbols to provide you with an accurate quote, ensuring that you have a clear understanding of the financial commitment required.

Having a detailed estimate of the costs involved not only helps you plan your fundraising efforts effectively but also gives you the confidence to approach potential donors or sponsors with a well-defined goal. Smarty Symbols’ expertise in this field and their commitment to creating high-quality communication boards will provide you with the assurance that your investment will result in a durable and effective tool for inclusive play.

Remember, communication boards are an investment in the well-being and inclusivity of your school or community playground. By understanding the costs involved and securing the necessary funding, you are taking a significant step toward creating an environment where all children can communicate, interact, and thrive. Let’s explore some funding strategies in the next section to help you turn this vision into a reality.

city playground communication board english green render 4

Funding Strategies: Bringing Your Vision to Life

Once you have determined the costs associated with acquiring communication boards for your school or playground, the next step is to explore effective funding strategies. With a clear understanding of the financial requirements, you can now focus on securing the necessary resources to bring your vision to life. Here are some ideas and examples to inspire your fundraising efforts:

A. City Playground Funding Strategies

When it comes to funding communication boards for city playgrounds, there are several strategies that can help you gather the necessary resources. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Municipal Budget Allocation: Explore the possibility of including communication boards as part of the annual budget for park renovations or enhancements. Work with local government officials and park departments to advocate for the importance of inclusive play and the positive impact communication boards can have on children’s development.

  2. Community Fundraising Events: Organize community events such as fundraisers, festivals, or sponsored runs/walks to raise funds for the communication boards. Engage local businesses, community organizations, and residents in supporting the cause. Collaborate with community centers, schools, or local venues to host these events and maximize community participation.

  3. Corporate Sponsorships and Grants: Reach out to local businesses and corporations for sponsorships or grants that align with their corporate social responsibility objectives. Many companies have philanthropic initiatives that focus on education, children, or community development. Craft a compelling proposal that highlights the benefits of communication boards and how their support will contribute to an inclusive and accessible playground.

  4. Partnerships with Nonprofit Organizations: Collaborate with local nonprofit organizations that share a similar mission or focus on children’s development. Explore the possibility of joint fundraising efforts, grant applications, or shared resources. Nonprofits may have established relationships with funders or access to funding opportunities that can support your project.

Success Story:

In June of 2022, Ashley Causey, a passionate Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), embarked on a mission to make the playgrounds in her city of Virginia Beach more inclusive for children of all abilities. Recognizing the power of communication boards in enhancing accessibility, Ashley reached out to Smarty Symbols CEO, Barbara Fernandes, through LinkedIn to seek guidance and support.

The collaboration between Ashley, Smarty Symbols, and city officials resulted in a remarkable project to install 11 communication boards across 11 playgrounds in Virginia Beach. Working closely with Remi Salami, a dedicated representative from Smarty Symbols, Ashley navigated the process of securing sponsors for the boards. In exchange for their support, the sponsors’ logos were prominently displayed on the communication boards, creating a sense of community and pride.

The design of each board was carefully crafted to reflect the unique characteristics of each park. Incorporating the park names and city colors, the communication boards seamlessly blend into the playgrounds, making them not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

As of now, the installation of the communication boards is underway, and soon children in Virginia Beach will have access to these valuable tools for inclusive communication during play. Ashley’s dedication and collaboration with Smarty Symbols and city officials exemplify the power of grassroots initiatives to bring about positive change in communities.

The success story of Virginia Beach’s playground project serves as an inspiration for other cities and communities seeking to create inclusive play spaces. It highlights the importance of collaboration, innovation, and the support of dedicated individuals and organizations like Smarty Symbols.

B. School Playground Funding Strategies

Funding communication boards for school playgrounds requires a tailored approach that involves engaging parents, teachers, and the broader school community. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Involvement: Present your project to the PTA and showcase the importance of communication boards in fostering inclusive play. Collaborate with the PTA on fundraising events, such as bake sales, auctions, or parent nights, to raise funds specifically for the communication boards. Encourage parents to contribute and volunteer their time and resources.

  2. Grant Applications: Research grants and funding opportunities specifically targeted towards educational initiatives, special needs programs, or inclusive play. Craft a strong grant proposal that highlights the benefits of communication boards and their impact on students’ social and cognitive development. Utilize resources such as grant databases or local education foundations to identify relevant opportunities.

  3. Community Partnerships: Engage local businesses, community organizations, and service clubs in supporting your project. Seek sponsorships, donations, or in-kind contributions that can offset the costs of the communication boards. Offer recognition and visibility to the partnering organizations, such as displaying their logos on the boards or acknowledging their support in school newsletters.

  4. Fundraising Campaigns: Launch targeted fundraising campaigns within the school community. Utilize online crowdfunding platforms or organize donation drives to involve parents, teachers, and students in contributing to the project. Communicate the goals and impact of the communication boards to generate excitement and support.

  5. School District Support: Collaborate with school district administrators and seek their support in allocating funds for the communication boards. Highlight the educational and social benefits of these boards and their alignment with the district’s commitment to inclusivity and student well-being.

Success Story: Derek's Inspiring Fundraising Journey for Inclusive Play

erek, a determined second-grade student at Pewaukee Lake Elementary School, partnered with Smarty Symbols, a leading provider of communication boards, to transform his vision of an inclusive playground into a reality. Through his relentless fundraising efforts, Derek raised $5,000 to fund the installation of communication boards in the school’s playground.

The collaboration between Derek and Smarty Symbols showcases the power of teamwork and dedication in creating inclusive spaces for children of all abilities. Smarty Symbols, known for their expertise in designing customized communication boards, worked closely with Derek to bring his vision to life. Together, they carefully selected symbols and images from Smarty Symbols’ extensive library to ensure the boards accurately represented the play preferences and activities of non-verbal students.

The installation of the communication boards in the playground now allows non-verbal students to express their play choices and interact with their peers more effectively. These boards have become an essential tool in fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion, empowering all students to engage in meaningful play experiences.

Derek’s remarkable achievement serves as an inspiration to schools and communities nationwide. His dedication and passion highlight the transformative impact that individuals, working in partnership with organizations like Smarty Symbols, can have on creating inclusive play environments.

By sharing Derek’s story, we aim to inspire others to embark on similar fundraising endeavors and collaborate with experts in the field to create inclusive playgrounds that celebrate the diverse needs and abilities of all children. Together, we can build a future where every child feels valued, included, and empowered in their play experiences.

You can learn details of Derek’s fundraising process here:

Collaboration and Partnerships

A. Building partnerships with local businesses and organizations

In order to make the communication board project a success, collaboration with local businesses and organizations is essential. By seeking sponsorships or in-kind donations from companies, the funding needed for the boards can be secured. Businesses in the community are often eager to support initiatives that promote inclusivity and accessibility in public spaces like playgrounds. For example, SLP Ashley Causey in Virginia Beach successfully secured funds from organizations such as Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Autism Society of Tidewater Virginia, Kroger, and many more. These partnerships allowed for the realization of 11 communication boards across the city’s playgrounds. By approaching businesses with the project’s goals and benefits, it is possible to establish meaningful partnerships that contribute to the success of the endeavor.

Additionally, establishing partnerships with local nonprofits or disability advocacy groups can provide valuable support and resources. These organizations often have a deep understanding of the needs of individuals with communication challenges and can offer guidance and expertise. Collaborating with them not only helps in obtaining financial or material support but also creates opportunities for sharing knowledge and best practices, ensuring the communication boards meet the specific needs of the community.

By fostering collaboration and partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, and advocacy groups, the implementation of communication boards in city playgrounds and schools can be achieved. These partnerships provide not only the necessary financial support but also expertise, resources, and a shared commitment to creating inclusive environments for individuals with communication challenges. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of children and promote a more inclusive society.

Moun Horeb Playground Communication Board

B. Collaborating with school administration and district officials

When it comes to implementing communication boards in schools, it is important to build strong partnerships with school administration and district officials. Oftentimes, principals may not be aware of the benefits and potential of communication boards as a tool for inclusive play and social interaction. It is crucial to raise awareness about this communication tool and its positive impact on students with communication challenges.

One effective way to initiate the conversation is by sending a simple email to the special education director or the principal at the beginning of the school year. This email can introduce the concept of communication boards and highlight their significance in promoting inclusivity and enhancing communication skills among students. By providing information and resources about the boards, school officials can be better informed and consider incorporating them into the school’s budget or end-of-year purchases.

It is worth noting that requests for communication boards often come from parents, speech therapists, and special education teachers who are closely involved in the day-to-day needs of students. These individuals have a deep understanding of the benefits and impact of communication boards on the students’ development and social interactions. Their advocacy and collaboration with school officials can greatly contribute to the successful implementation of communication boards in schools.

By collaborating with school administration and district officials, we can ensure that communication boards become a recognized and valued resource in school environments. Through ongoing communication and education, we can raise awareness about the importance of these boards as tools for inclusive play and social engagement. Together, we can create schools that are welcoming and supportive for all students, including those with communication challenges.

If you are passionate about implementing communication boards in your school, we encourage you to send a simple email to a school contact, such as the special education director or the principal, expressing your interest and sharing resources about the benefits of communication boards. Even a small step like reaching out and asking if they are aware of the process for adding communication boards to the school can trigger meaningful actions that can positively impact students’ lives.

Applying for Grants and Funding

A. Researching grants specific to educational or inclusive initiatives

Researching grants specific to educational or inclusive initiatives is an important first step in securing additional funding for your communication board project. Take the time to explore various grant opportunities that align with the goals and objectives of your project. Look for grants from foundations, government agencies, and other organizations that prioritize supporting educational and inclusive initiatives.

  1. The American Honda Foundation: The American Honda Foundation provides grants to support educational programs and initiatives that focus on youth and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Visit their website for more information: American Honda Foundation Grants

  2. The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant Program: This grant program provides funding for projects that improve schools and educational facilities. It supports initiatives such as playground enhancements and accessibility improvements. Learn more about the grant program here: Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant Program

  3. The Lawrence Foundation: The Lawrence Foundation offers grants to support projects in the areas of education, environment, human services, and other charitable causes. They prioritize initiatives that have a broad impact and promote social equity. Explore their website for grant application details: The Lawrence Foundation Grants


In conclusion, this article has explored various funding strategies and ideas to create inclusive play spaces through the use of communication boards. We have highlighted the importance of collaboration, partnerships, and grant applications to secure funding for these valuable resources. By working together, schools, communities, and organizations can make a significant impact in providing opportunities for communication and inclusion.

We encourage readers to take action and advocate for communication boards in their schools and public spaces. Start by reaching out to school administrators, special education directors, or local government officials to raise awareness about the benefits of communication boards and inquire about the process of implementing them. Share this article or relevant resources with others to spread awareness and inspire action.

The positive impact of communication boards on children and the community cannot be understated. By providing a means for non-verbal individuals to express themselves, these boards promote inclusivity, social interaction, and a sense of belonging. They enhance play experiences, facilitate communication, and foster understanding among children of all abilities.

Let us continue to work together to create inclusive environments where every child has the opportunity to thrive and participate fully. By embracing the power of communication boards, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of children and promote a more inclusive society.

Remember, a simple email or conversation can spark the change needed to make communication boards a reality in your community. Let’s come together and create inclusive play spaces that celebrate the diversity and abilities of all children.