Howard County Executive Calvin Ball joined the Department of Recreation & Parks on April 16th to unveil two innovative nonverbal communication boards at Blandair Regional Park’s new “Play for All” playground. The boards, which were partially funded by the Howard County Autism Society (HCAS), allow nonverbal children to easily communicate without the use of personal augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. The park’s Play for All playground is set to open this Spring. Photos can be found here.

“Howard County is constantly working towards creating a more inclusive community, for all,” said Ball. “These communication boards are a welcome addition to this state-of-the-art park and will allow for more of our children of all abilities to have positive experience at our playground. Thank you to the Howard County Autism Society for this contribution, and to our Department of Recreation & Parks for working collaborating with our community to make this site truly a place for all.”

To use the communication boards, children point to pictures on the display to express their thoughts and feelings. The symbols on the board were taken from a communication product called TouchChat and were selected by speech-language pathologists specifically for use on playgrounds. The boards, which also include braille, are designed to encourage a sense of community as well as an inclusive, more equitable play environment.

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The County has eight other communication boards, which were installed at Waverly, Cedar Lane, Bellows Spring, Clarksville, Dayton Oaks, Ilchester, Pointers Run and Rockburn Elementary School last year. The 3 x 5-foot boards were made possible through special funding from the HCAS and fabricated by sign manufacturer Sharma & Associates.

“Our new playground at Blandair Park was designed from the ground up to be a space where every child feels welcome. With amenities like these Communication Boards, Blandair Park will serve as a model for how our parks can and should be built with every member of our community in mind” said Recreation & Parks Director Raul Delerme. “We thank the Howard County Autism Society for this generous gift.”

“As a Howard County resident, Howard County Autism Society Board Member, and nearly 10-year veteran autism mom, I couldn’t be more proud of our community and its pioneering vision to address the needs of everyone in our community,” said HCAS Secretary Katie Gandy. This inclusive playground at Blandair Park is going to revolutionize the way families with disabled family members are able to play and interact within our community. It provides them with an inclusive, judgement-free zone to allow our children to play just like their peers.”

“The Howard County Autism Society is grateful to have partnered with our county and the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks to increase equity for those children with learning and communication differences,” said HCAS Board President Patrick Boxall. “These communication boards make play more inclusive for children using assistive technology and their typical peers. “

One of Howard County’s premier destinations for sports events, Blandair Park is a 300-acre public recreation area in the heart of Columbia. The park’s Play for All playground is set to open this spring. For more information on Blandair Park, click here.

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See the video here:

Scott E

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