Communication Board helps TES students bridge gaps
By Logan Watson
A partnership between Trenton Elementary School and Words for Life Speech & Language Center provided students and teachers with an innovative tool to help students better communicate.
Kids that are non-verbal or have developmental delays have a hard time expressing themselves to their peers, but the new communication board on the TES playground will help bridge the gaps between students and help them build relationships with others who learn and communicate differently than they do.
“We have a lot of kiddos that start right here in this building when they turn three or four, and they cannot communicate their wants and needs,” said Cassie Prestininzi They can’t say, ‘I feel down and hurt my knee,’ ‘I’m thirsty,’ ‘I need help.’ We have some amazing resources in place, but that’s something that the teacher has to bring out here. We wanted something that all the kids could access.”
This has been in the works for quite some time,” said TSSD Special Education Supervisor Amy Allen. “The number of three-year-olds transitioning in with special needs is rising greatly. We have more and more nonverbal children coming into our school district. This board will allow them to better communicate with their peers on the playground and be able to interact with them.”
The board will not only help students with special needs communicate but will help lift the overall understanding of their typically progressing peers by exposing them to things like body language and American Sign Language at an early age.
“Their verbal peers understand that they have things to say, they just don’t know how to a lot of times,” Allen said. said. “We’re hopeful that the kids that aren’t in classes with these children can start to see how to communicate. Then they will have a better quality of play and make better relationships.”
The creative minds behind the board were TES Special Education Teacher Ariel Wells and her sister, graphic designer Brittany Bresnahan. Similar boards exist, but the TES Speech Board is one of a kind, down to the facial expressions of the children pictured. The children are also ethnically and physically diverse.
“This took a lot of time on her part,” Prestininzi said. “Everybody is included, everybody is represented and we’re really excited about this.
“We had seen some of these things in surrounding schools, but nothing really fit what we needed for our playground,” she continued. “Ariel, our Special Education teacher, and I put our brains together and started working on some thoughts and ideas for this using resources that we have at our school. Things like this can be $2,000, $3,000 depending on what you need.”
Thanks to community donors, the speech board was commissioned and installed at no cost to the district. The family of Paul Allen helped sponsor the board, as did Security Bank, Words for Life Speech & Language Center and Leaders Credit Union. The board was created and installed by 909 Designs.
“Paul is a special member of our student body and his family supports us greatly. They need to be thanked as well,” said Principal Cortnee Wilkes. “Cassie and Ariel saw this need for our school, then took it and ran with it. This is not something I asked them to do, they love our kids and they know what they need. They are big advocates for our students with disabilities. They know our kids better than anyone and they made this happen.”