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Communication boards are a form of augmentative and alternate communication that can be used in households, schools, and other community settings. Through the use of graphics and visuals, these boards can help bridge the communication gap between nonspeaking or minimally speaking individuals and their caregivers, teachers, and peers.  

The boards display photos, symbols, or illustrations to help people with limited spoken language ability express themselves by gesturing or pointing to the images to communicate. For example, it can include pictures of a school bus, doctor’s office, or alarm clock to indicate different activities or choices that a nonspeaking or minimally speaking person can choose. 

What Is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC?)

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices are modifications to communication that are used to fit one’s individual needs. There are two types of AACs: high and low tech. High-tech AACs use electricity and can include speech-generating devices, computers, and tablets with language applications. Low-tech AACs do not use electricity. Communication boards fall under this category.  

One of the best-known systems is the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which is now available in a variety of low-tech and hi-tech options. 

Low-tech systems include books, boards, even index cards or pieces of paper with images hand-drawn on them and organized into pockets or folders.  

Digital options include apps and websites. 

How Are Communication Boards Used?

There are numerous ways to use a communication board. A person can:  

  • Express their immediate needs (going to the bathroom, needing a glass of water, needing a break). 
  • Ask questions. 
  • Indicate a preference, desire, or decision.  

By offering images as an alternative for spoken language, communication boards are more inclusive of those who might not be able to verbalize their thoughts and can help others understand the needs and thoughts of nonspeaking or minimally speaking individuals. 

Getting Started with AAC

One of the biggest challenges in using AAC is knowing what to do with it and knowing when and how to implement it in different environments. To get started: 

  • Speak with an AAC specialist to help find a good fit for the child. 
  • Educate the household about AAC devices. 
  • Encourage the child’s attempts to use AAC. 
  • Have the child’s AAC device present at all times. 

Communication boards offer people who are unable to speak a means of communicating with family members, friends, colleagues, their teachers, and fellow students. To learn more about AACs, check out these resources: