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Meet the Speech Pathologist Who Made One of the Most Unique Communication Boards Available
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the city/school your communication board is in?
I am an SLP based in the Adirondacks of New York State. I have been an SLP for 25 (plus) years and continue to have a passion for improving the communication skills of children. Working in many settings with all ages of clients led me back to where I started, my LOVE- providing play based therapy for young children in their homes and daycare settings.
During the pandemic, I wanted specific digital and print materials for my clients that I couldn’t find, so I made them and started to sell them on TPT and Boom Leaning and became an accidental entrepreneur. Many of my resources (that contain Smarty Symbols ) not only help me and my clients, but I’m so excited that I can help other busy SLP’s also!
I am a busy Mom to two “grown up” kids and miss them like crazy! My private practice keeps me on my toes and always looking for and developing time saving tips and resources for fellow SLPS and parents.
Our Playground Communication Board is housed in our local central playground in Lake Placid, NY.
How did you hear about our communication boards and what made you decide that your community needed a playground communication board?
I’ve been using Smarty Symbols for a few years in developing visuals for my students, the settings that they are in (daycares, schools and home) and for activities to facilitate their communication skills. As a Smarty Symbols subscriber, I heard about the communication boards that SS was developing.
In Lake Placid, the village centers around a lake that I walk each day with my dog, Mojo. I thought our village playground would be the perfect spot for not only the children that I work with, but for many other children with communication differences. Lake Placid is a popular tourist destination so neurodiverse people around the world could use the board as well as our local community members. I talked to my sister, an enthusiastic Real Estate Agent in Lake Placid, about the idea and she immediately started work on calling members of our village board!
What process did you have to go through to finally get the board in hand (funding/design decisions/installation)?
1)We met with our local boards to get the installation approved. In Lake Placid, we had to get approval from the Village Board before anything, since the playground is housed in the Village.
We prepared a short 7 minute presentation on answering 3 questions: What is a playground communication board?; How will it benefit our community? and How much does it cost? (we also answered specific questions regarding size, best materials to use and the possibility of having a bilingual board). We were asked many pertinent questions and educated the Village Board on the percentage of children and adults that would benefit from this project and prove there was a demand. The Village Board (with great help from an elementary school teacher who sits on the Village board) loved the idea and even suggested having boards in other locations in the village after seeing how this “pilot communication board” did. They agreed to fund some of the communication board. We figured we could get private local community service organizations (i.e. Rotary Club, Lions Club)
2) After the Village Board Approval, we met with the Village Appearance Committee. They met with us at the proposed site of the communication board and we discussed placement, height, and installation ideas. One of the members of the Appearance Committee also works for our local tourism and marketing organization and she suggested that ROOST (Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism) could possibly pay for the entire board and installation, she emailed the next day with the good news that they would!
3) Symbol Selection and Design: Smarty Symbols have complete boards as samples and allowed us to add symbols that are specific to our area. The board includes verbs, greetings, playground equipment, basic needs symbols, questions, feelings in addition to letters and numbers. The only issue with adding symbols is that to add a symbol, another has to be taken away. As an SLP who has been designing picture boards for my students, I knew what I wanted to add. I wanted the board to be as functional as possible for as many as possible and I wanted the board to be used for communication during play! It was really important to not only have symbols for basic needs (i.e.”hungry, cold”) but also incorporate symbols to enhance play and fun (i.e. “swing, jump, come with me”). We added symbols like “Go to the beach”, “Let’s play tennis”, ”dog” and “mountains” because our specific location includes these items. We were able to combine some symbols into one to make room for our new symbols.
Who were some of the people and organizations that helped support this project?
The day my sister and I talked about the idea for the communication board, she posted the idea and a sample picture on our local community FaceBook page. The response was amazing! Many of our local residents were extremely supportive of the idea, including some of my student’s parents (current and previous). Lake Placid is a small community, so people posted ideas about funding and who to contact for help.
When we talked to the Village Board, they were also really supportive and shared ideas for funding as well.
The construction of the frame and posts for the board were left up to the village of Lake Placid employees and they went above and beyond! We told the DPW Superintendent our ideas and his staff added plexiglass and a frame. Lake Placid has harsh winters with a lot of snow and the way they constructed the frame will ensure a long lasting board!
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, our local paper,covered the idea for the board in an article and later took a picture of the completed board and one of my previous students using it.
Do you think that this project fulfilled a need for you or the community?
This project fulfilled a need for our community of which I am a part of! It is so important to celebrate diversity in all ways and this community communication board not only shows how Lake Placid celebrates diversity, but how we are working toward accessibility for all.
What's next for you and what would you like for us to share with our readers?
We are beyond excited about how this project came out and we are spreading the word via social media. Friends and colleagues are asking questions about implementing boards in their towns, and I am happy to help them. Many see the need in their own communities and appreciate direction regarding the process. I will continue helping children through my practice and branching out with projects just like this to celebrate differences and promote awareness, inclusion, learning, and communication for all. This one small task can help so many people and I encourage your readers to work for inclusion in their hometown.
We also made a book for children about a communication board that you can find for free on my website @speechietrish.com and there is more specific information on my blog about how to get a communication board for your community! Please contact me at [email protected] for any questions!