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with permission from Temple University Institute of Disabilities

What are they?

A communication board is a device that displays photos, symbols, or illustrations to help people with limited language skills express themselves. The user can gesture, point to, or blink at images to communicate with others.

Communication boards are one type of augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) device. They can be simple, handmade boards or computerized programs. They can be useful in schools, homes, healthcare environments, or during an emergency.

How are they used?

Communication between someone who’s nonverbal and someone who uses spoken language can be difficult. Communication boards may cut down on some of this difficulty by providing simple, recognizable images and symbols to understand one another.

You can use communication boards to:

  • express a simple message, such as “I need to use the bathroom”
  • ask questions
  • offer choices

Communication boards help users express their immediate needs and preferences. These boards may increase autonomy by allowing users to make decisions about their own lives, as it allows them to communicate their needs to others more effectively.

Who might find them useful?

Language limitations are associated with many different conditions affecting both children and adults. Communication boards can be essential tools for people with:

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • speech apraxia
  • stroke
  • dementia
  • traumatic brain injuries
  • deafness
  • learning delays or disabilities
  • intellectual disabilities
  • intubated patients
  • non-English speakers

Communication boards are especially important in medical settings to ensure healthcare providers and family members are meeting the user’s needs.