“How did you make a communication board playground sign?”. That is a question I’ve gotten asked a lot. In the spring of 2018, I was sitting at the hospital with my dad. He was very sick, and I wanted to be there to keep a close eye on him. I spent a lot of time scrolling on Facebook that night. As I was scrolling, I came across a communication board playground sign. It was the first time I’d ever seen one! I immediately took a screenshot and sent it to my boss. The next year was very difficult, as I lost my dad to leukemia, so the playground sign was put on the back burner. In late 2019, I got the ball rolling again when I wrote a grant for the playground sign.
Funding For AAC Playground Sign
Finding funding for a communication board playground sign is the biggest barrier. I wrote a grant within my local school district for funding. If you don’t have a grant source available, there are several other ways to obtain funding. Think outside the box! Could you talk to the parent group at your school? What about joining forces with a local boy scout or girl scout troop? With permission from your district, maybe start a fundraiser or a DonorsChoose project. Do your research first, so you know what the cost will be for the sign. Don’t forget about the cost of the posts and installation. In my case, I talked to the grounds crew in my school district. They loved the idea of the playground sign so much that they are going to provide the posts and installation at no cost!
Pictures For The Communication Board
Another question you might have is “where do I get the pictures?”. I recommend getting together with your speech/language pathologist to decide what type of symbols to use. If you want to place a sign at a community playground, see if a local speech/language pathologist will join your planning team. It is important to put a lot of thought and discussion into the symbol selection stage of planning. Core vocabulary is very popular right now and is a great option for a communication playground sign. The professionals at my school chose to have two different options. One is a core vocabulary sign, and one sign with fringe words. This is because we have several little learners who use a visual communication book that consists of mostly fringe words (nouns). You can read more about the difference here.
One part of designing the playground sign that can get more expensive can be hiring a graphic designer to make sure the file is in the correct resolution and format. I have a good friend who helped me with this piece. You also need to be sure to get permission from the clip artist or company who makes the symbols (Boardmaker, Smarty Symbols, etc..). For the more simplistic fringe communication board, I used clipart from Educlips. Sarah is amazing to work with!
Choosing A Printing Company For The Communication Board
This is one of the most difficult parts. As an educator, I really don’t know much about the graphic design or printing world! I reached out to a neighboring school district in Minnesota (South Washington County Schools) because I knew they had AAC playground signs. They were so kind. We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel because they generously shared their core vocabulary board design and the printing company they used. The printing company I used is Impression Signs And Graphics in Oakdale, Minnesota. Eric is wonderful to work with. The signs are weatherproof and are an affordable price (less than $150 per “side”). How can you beat that?
More From Autism Little Learners
In addition to a playground sign, a visual schedule can prepare children for what to expect during their day. A visual communication book can help pre-verbal or non-speaking autistic children. It allows them to learn to effectively communicate with others using a visual modality. Both of these are ways of teaching children with autism using best practice strategies.
Be sure to grab the free Visual Supports Starter Set too!