Somerville To Set Up Communication Boards For Non-Verbal Children At Parks

Photo: Courtesy of City of Somerville

SOMERVILLE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio)— The city of Somerville is taking a big step to make its playgrounds more inclusive.

The city will be installing new communication boards at its tot lots as a way for non-verbal children at the playgrounds to communicate with their parents, caregivers, or other kids. Children are often non-verbal for many reasons, including autism or learning disabilities, according to SpeechEase.

The boards will contain images for different commands, requests or actions like "bathroom" or "stop". To use the boards, children will just have to point at what they wish to communicate on the board.

Somerville Fire Lieutenant Danielle O'Hearn proposed the the idea to the city because of her 8-year-old son, who is non-verbal. She told WBZ's Shari Small (@sharismallnews) he uses an electronic communication board, but it isn't always practical on the playground.

"Just because you're non-verbal, doesn't mean you have nothing to say," O'Hearn said. "I want him to truly be able to enjoy playgrounds as a kid."

O'Hearn brought the idea to City Councilor-At-Large Kristen Strezo, who helped initiate an order to have them installed at the city's tot lots. Strezo said these boards can affect children in a positive way.

"One mom told me that introducing these communication boards made her feel as if her son was visible in the community," Strezo said.

The city will begin installing the boards in a pilot program next month. The initial shipment of materials was delayed due to pandemic, according to a statement from the city.

WBZ's Shari Small (@sharismallnews) has the story.

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