Communication boards aim to include all at Spring Hill parks

By KATE COIL

A new project is hoping to create ease of access for patrons with disabilities at parks across the city of Spring Hill.

The city will be installing communication boards on the perimeter of the playgrounds at Harvey Park, Evans Park, and Fischer Park at Port Royal.
The project was started by Allyssa VelDink, a speech language pathologist at Arise Therapies in Spring Hill who specializes in augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC) therapy. Arise Therapies partnered with the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill/Thompson’s Station and the city of Spring Hill to install the boards at parks across the city.
Kayce Williams, parks and recreation director for the city of Spring Hill, said the partnership is an example of Spring Hill residents coming together with the city for the benefit of everyone involved.

“Our city staff is highly committed to serving our community and our city leadership supports us, but sometimes we receive an extra blessing when we connect with wonderful private sector partners who have that same commitment to serving the community,” Williams said. “We are so grateful to Arise Therapies and Kiwanis for making this possible. Their partnership on this project has been amazing. To some it may seem like an insignificant thing, but I promise you, it matters. Even if these communication boards only help just one person, it’s worth it.”

A type of AAC, communication boards can be used by people with conditions including autism spectrum disorders, speech apraxia, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, strokes, dementia, traumatic brain injuries, deafness, selective muteness, learning disabilities or delays, ALS, and other disabilities.

The boards have all patrons in mind, but are specifically designed for those who are non-verbal, highly unintelligible, or unable to use traditional forms of speech to communicate. These boards are composed of easy-to-understand pictures and an alphabet board that patrons of all ages can use if they are in need of assistance or to communicate with others.
According to the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC), communication boards are “a set of tools and strategies that an individual uses to solve every day communicative challenges” faced by both children and adults with certain impairments.

“Everyone uses multiple forms of communication, based upon the context and our communication partner,” ISAAC’s website reads. “Effective communication occurs when the intent and meaning of one individual is understood by another person. The form is less important than the successful understanding of the message.”
Williams said the communication boards are another way of ensuring that all residents of Spring Hill feel included in the community.

“We want everyone to feel welcome and safe in our parks, especially those with verbal intricacies. It is not only important to provide a way for communication to happen in the event someone needs assistance, it is also important to provide another way for people to connect with one another,” she said. “Our department’s mission is to provide safe and accessible facilities for all of our citizens, enrich their quality of life, and foster community environments. Community is about living our best lives together. I believe that means meeting others where they are in their life, not expecting others to adapt to us. It is an attitude of service.”