CHAMPION — Communication just got a little easier for non-verbal students attending programs at Champion Central Elementary School, thanks to a special communication board set up on the playground.
“We always try to meet students where they are, and that includes all environments, not just classrooms, so bringing the board here allows students to communicate with their peers and with their teachers, d ‘a way that was ‘not available before,’ said local Champion Schools special education director Christy Pompoco.
The board, installed earlier this month, contains around 60 playground-related words, symbols and vocabulary terms. Students can point to pictures to express how they feel or what activity they want to do, allowing them to communicate with their peers and teachers during recess.
Some words included on the board are slide, swing, run, climb, I, want, get, do, done, stop and play.
The symbols are the same ones students use in school and on communication devices, so they already know them and know how to sequence them, Pompoco said.
“It allows them to play a bit with their peers instead of gesturing or shooting. It gives them a little more choice to be able to express themselves,” said Pompoco.
She added that while some students carry devices or graphics cards that perform a similar function, bringing them to all environments isn’t always practical. These objects can be broken or lost.
She said the council also helps educate those who are unfamiliar with the challenges students with communication barriers face every day.
Tanya Romanini, a speech-language pathologist at the Trumbull County Educational Services Center, showed third-grade student Ethan Urmson, who attends school in Champion, the council.
“It was great to see him looking at it and using it immediately and knowing what to do,” said Romani. “I feel like he’s definitely going to feel empowered to go out and do what everyone else is doing.”
TCESC has two deaf education programs based in local Champion schools. Champion Central Elementary currently has about 10 children who benefit from a picture system for communication, including preschoolers and deaf students, according to Pompoco.
Romanini said the communication board gives students more independence and can help reduce anxiety by allowing them to communicate like everyone else.
She said she was thrilled that all the students in the school were using the board and learning more about each other and different types of communication.