What is a Communications Board?
There can be a lot of cross-over in AAC methods. Communications Boards are one such area. They use pictures, like in PECS, but instead of handing over a card you teach the individual to point, like on an AAC app or device. So arguably, this is a low-tech version of an AAC app.
Communications boards have advantages and disadvantages like every other method. In the advantage column they require less fine motor skills than either PECS (no need to pick up and hand over a card) or AAC devices and apps (no need to press something hard enough to activate a voice), they are quick to make and do not require a lot of cutting out of individual cards. A single sheet is also very easy to carry around with you.
In terms of disadvantages, Communications Boards do not teach the idea of physically interacting with another person in the way PECS does, they are not as easily altered as AAC devices and apps where you can just add or replace a word or even as easily adaptable as PECS. With PECS if you need a new card then you go and print off and make that one new card – with Communication Boards you can add cards to the top through the use of plastic comb binders, but then when you need a new set you have to add another layer to the plastic comb binders.
Types of boards
There are two main types of Communications Boards from what I’ve seen:
- Core Vocabularly Boards
- Topic or event specific boards.
For the former, if you type “autism core vocabulary board” into Google then you will see the types of boards this means. They generally range from boards which have 15 Core Vocabularly words and symbols on them all the way up to ones which have 50+. They tend to include words just as “I”, “You”, “want”, “yes”, “no”, and “stop” on the smaller boards then progress all the way up adding vocabulary in the way of adjectives, nouns and verbs. These are typically colour coded as well but the colour coding isn’t all that clear. Beige or yellow represent pronouns, pink represents the question words, green tends to be the verbs but then there are other words that are commonly verbs such as finished categorised under the sky blue along with adjectives. There are also two very similar shades of blue. I initially thought maybe it tied into the same colour scheme as Colourful Semantics but that isn’t the case.
So the colour scheme that is traditionally used may not be to your liking – but there’s no saying you can’t come up with your own to help categorisation.
The second type of board is what I call event/topic specific and these are ones like the one at the top of the page. These can be for if the individual communicating is hungry they grab the food board, if they’re in pain they grab the body parts board, they can be communication boards for building lego with words like “more”, “tower”, “house”, and all the colours, or they can be topic specific for classrooms. They can follow the same colour schemes as the core vocabulary board but I tend to see more of them with plain backgrounds.
The use of either type of board is two-way, the non-verbal individual can use it to express themselves, and their communication partner can use it to provide visual information to go along with or to replace verbal information. Instead of just telling your child to give you a red lego brick, you can point to the symbols as well. This has the two-fold advantage of providing visual support for those who need it, and forcing the communication partner to slow down by looking for the symbols to point to.
Whilst the example above has been made in Boardmaker, it is of course fine (as it was with PECS) to use other images – they might be photos, cartoon images, or line drawings. Gather them onto a page, print it, laminate it and start carrying it around.
So that’s the introduction to Communications Boards, until next time feel free to comment below with questions or any information you might have.
Header image made using Boardmaker Studio
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Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.