Officials support use of communication boards for nonverbal students

A communication board stands at the Morningside Elementary School playground. The communication board is used to help nonverbal students communicate during recess. The communication board is being used in numerous schools.

A small story about a big idea ignited online. Now the world is talking about the recess communication board being used in Elizabethtown Independent Schools.

The original article played on Page A3 in the Nov. 20 edition of The News-Enterprise. It soon became the most viewed story on thanks to repeated recommendations on Twitter.

Jenn Wells of Napierville, Illinois, who describes herself as a passionate PE teacher, was among the first to spot the story and recommend it to others.

“Absolutely LOVE this idea,” Wells wrote. “I have students who use communication devices in class, why not recess?”

It spread among educators and advocates for children with disabilities. It’s been retweeted by teachers from Miami to Seattle in the U.S. and drawn international attention ranging from Ontario to New Zealand.

Amelia Abell, a special education teacher at Morn­ing­side Elementary School, previously told The News-Enterprise the school received a grant from the Elizabethtown Edu­cation Foundation for the communication board, which was installed earlier this school year.

The board contains words such as “I,” “You,” “Want,” “Drink,” “Tag,” “Push,” and “Inside,” accompanied by a picture. Students point to the image on the board to tell other students or teachers what they wish to do.

In addition to its Twitter attention, the initial story received hundreds of reactions and shares on Facebook.

“I’ve had a lot of people contacting me about where I got the boards,” Abell said. “Which makes me so happy because I would love for these to be at every school.”

The boards have been used in other school districts across the state, including Hardin County Schools, such as at New Highland Elementary School. Carlena Sheeran, director of early childhood education for Hardin County Schools, said the board is used by both nonverbal and verbal children.

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