A device for use in communicating with people who have no or impaired communication skills.
A communication board is a device designed to facilitate communication between two individuals, one or both of whom have verbal communication difficulties. Communication boards and related aids are used by people who have difficulty using speech to communicate, or whose speech cannot be understood by others. Such devices are often successful in helping people with aphasia, autism, mental retardation and other brain dysfunctions, voice, hearing, or visual problems, or neurological disorders. The communication board allows an individual to point to the word or pictorial representation of the appropriate concept he or she wants to communicate.
A communication board is not a substitute for speech, but provides support for basic communication. Communication boards are often custom-made by the user or his friends, teachers, or family members, sometimes using a purchased kit designed for the purpose. Commercial kits for making communication boards include mat boards with packages of stickers representing familiar words or concepts encountered during the activities of daily life. Stickers may feature either words or simple drawings to represent the concepts to be used in communication. Some communication boards can be written on with a marker; these have an erasable surface, usually white, that is sometimes referred to as "china board."
Variations on the communication board
Some communication boards have advanced programmable features that incorporate spoken language as well as visual depictions of the concepts. For example, using a programmable, purchased device, a parent could develop a custom communication board for the child to use in choosing food at mealtime. The photos could feature selected food items that the child likes. In response to the question "What would you like for lunch?" the child touches a pressure-sensitive picture of pizza, and the pre-programmed voice says "I would like cheese pizza, please." Such devices allow the child to simulate simple spoken communication. Although the devices with voice responses are more costly than the simple printed communication board system, computer technology has made them easier to use and affordable for many schools and families.
Portable communication boards are available in wallet-like cases to help the nonverbal child communicate at school, in restaurants, and elsewhere. The creative use of communication boards and voice-response devices enable the child with limited speech to share his ideas, needs, wants, and feelings with those around her.
Ross, Linda M., ed. Communication Disorders Sourcebook: Basic Information About Deafness and Hearing Loss, Speech and Language Disorders, Voice Disorders, Balance and Vestibular Disorders, and Disorders of Smell, Taste, and Touch. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1995.