Communication is a vital part of our lives and is the means in which we express feelings, thoughts, information and ideas to each other. Communication is not limited to spoken word. There are many different ways in which people communicate, such as sounds, gestures, miming, pictures and hand signs. Children with complex communication needs, in most cases, rely on these latter methods as either supports to speech or as the main method of communication. It's no different for children when they play. While playing, they're using various different communication methods to direct play and interact with others.
As part of the Queensland All Abilities Playground Project (QAAPP), the department has developed resources aimed at enhancing communication opportunities for children in outdoor play spaces. They consist of choice-making resources and chat boards.
Their development is the result of collaboration between QAAPP project manager Lisa Stafford, Disability Services' Discipline Senior and Speech Language Pathologist Darren Trentepohl, and various organisations, including Bilby Publishing, Sign Planet and DynaVox Mayer-Johnson LLC.
The resources use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, which are communication strategies that supplement or, in some cases, replace the use of speech. AAC strategies draw on the many ways in which we converse, such as through sign, gestures and pictures. For more information about AAC, visit the following websites:
The project's communication resources utilise two of these methods. They are:
Hand signs - Australian Sign Language (Auslan) is the sign language system used by the hearing impaired community in Australia.
People who have communication, language or learning difficulties can use Auslan to communicate. This is best done in a simplified way, using only the main signs, and just a few of them. In Australia, this is known as Key Word Signing or Makaton. The key word signs are derived from Auslan, pictures and speech.
More information about sign language resources can be found at:
Pictures and symbols - Pictures are a natural way for anyone to communicate. For children with little or no speech, they can be very effective for both expressive and receptive communication. Pictures can be used to support the communication of individuals of all ages and abilities.
Picture sets are known as symbols. You can find more information about the Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) used in the project's resources from DynaVox Mayer-Johnson.
Top tips for using picture communication aids:
- Using picture communication aids is simple; just talk and point to a picture.
- The best way parents and carers can help children understand and use the aids is by showing. You may need to practice pointing to pictures and talking at the same time.
- Don't limit yourself to the words on the aid or board, as there will be much more to say.
- Don't also overwhelm your child; keep it simple if you need to.
- If there are different aids or boards to choose from, make sure you have the right one. The chat resources provided on this page, for example, were developed to suit different activities.
It is important that children are able to communicate their wishes and choices to direct their play. This is motivating for any child.
To support children who use ACC systems, the department has developed choice-making resources that feature PCS and Auslan imagery, plus descriptions of how to sign.
The resources consist of a large board (1200mm high x 900mm wide), intended for installation in playgrounds created as part of the statewide project from mid 2010, as well as a web-downloadable poster and sheet, available below.
Each resource features 27 images of things that children may like to use and visit in a playground or park. People can talk and point to pictures or use sign language to choice what to do.
The choice-making resources also provide an educational opportunity for people interested in learning more about alternative communication strategies.
The web-downloadable poster and sheet available on this website can be printed and used by children, families, schools and community members, to support more children in their all abilities play experiences.
To suit different printer capabilities, two PDF versions of the poster and sheet have been provided.
Children communicate a range of feelings, emotions, thoughts and actions while they play.
To support and enhance play experiences for children with complex communication needs, a range of chat boards have been developed that contain various pictures and words that children may like to say.
Five chat boards were developed as a result of observing children at play. These are:
- Active play - ball play, sliding, climbing and spinning
- Creative play - building sand castle and making mud pies
- Pretend play - playing shop and other role play
- Sensory play - smelling, touching and exploring
- Picnic table - conversation over food.
Like the choice-making board, the chat boards are intended for installation in playgrounds created as part of the statewide project from mid to late 2010 or as they are built. As each play space is different, the number and type of boards installed will vary.
Two downloadable versions of each chat board are also available on this webpage (see below). While both versions are A3 in size, one is configured differently to suit printing on two A4 pages.
Chat board - active play
Chat board - creative play
Chat board - pretend play
Chat board - sensory play
Chat board - picnic table
Top tips for using choice-making and chat resources:
- Print resources prior to play, so that children can familiarise themselves.
- Talk to your child's teacher and speech therapist to explore AAC systems further.
Note: Due to licensing arrangements, these resources are only available in PDF format. If you are not able to access PDF files located on this webpage, please contact the Disability Services Project Team to request a copy via email or post.