Communication Series – Core Board: Playdough

Core Board: Playdough


Core boards can be adapted and used for a wide range of activities – both in home and at school. They can provide an easy visual support for both the individual and their communication partner. Of course they have their limitations, unless you’re going to create a communication board that’s hundreds of squares big there’s always going to be things missing. However, they have their place so in this post I’m going to look at ways to use a communication board during play dough play.

The board I have made quickly is very simple with only ten symbols on it. I work predominantly with autistic primary school children who have a lot of difficulty with expressive and receptive language so most of my resources start with only a few options. This helps students get used to using the boards without having to process thirty or more symbols at one.

Play dough is great for building up fine motor skills in the students I work with – most of them have no issues with the feel of play dough, although some do attempt to eat it. That’s what the focus of this board is.

From the very start, the board can be used. Either the student can point to which colour of play dough they want or you can give them a small bit of play dough to play with and then when they want more they can point to “more”. For the first few sessions this might need to be prompted or modeled so that the student can get to grips with the process of communicating with the board.

You can then – after a short time of free play – physically model squashing the play dough, then point to the corresponding symbol and comment on what you have done: “I have squashed my play dough”. Then you can ask the student to squash their play dough. Again this might require modeling or prompting after you have used the board. If the student attempts to squash their play dough and struggles, when they look to you for support you can model the use of “I need help”. The “I need help” symbol can also be introduced via sabotage methods, such as presenting the play dough but within a container that the student cannot open. Once they start to look around, or show the very early signs of frustration – immediately prompt or model “I need help” and provide them with the assistance.

Finally when the student begins to get restless and goes to get up and leave the activity, prompt and model pointing to “I am finished” and then respect their decision to get up and leave. If you don’t respect their decision to finish the activity once they have pointed to “I am finished” either with or without support, then they will just learn that there is no point communicating because you don’t listen anyway. You can always try the activity another day.

Anyway, that was a very brief guide to using the core board that is in the image above – if you want to get a better look at it I have included a PDF below. Used anything like this before? Or want to give feedback trying this activity? Leave a comment below.

Until next time.

Example of play dough core board

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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.

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