The new board is one of three being introduced as part of a pilot program; there will also be boards at Willowdale and Lewis Memorial parks. The board is divided into colorful sections organized by the type of sign. Graphics include actions like sitting and other playground activities.
“We thought it would be great for kids who are verbal to be able to see a different way that other kids communicate and it would be a great educational opportunity,” explained Councilwoman Michele Golkow, an advocate for inclusivity who brought the board idea to the township.
In the coming days, a QR code will also be installed to allow kids access to the board from anywhere on the playground.
“Say they’re at the top (of the slide) and they’re hungry,” posited Nicole Kramer, a speech therapist at Barclay Early Childhood Center. “They can tell their mom they want to eat or drink. They can say, ‘This is scary. I want off.’ A parent can kind of guide them through it.”
The board effort has been in the works since last November, when Golkow broached the idea to council, the mayor and the recreation department. From there, a volunteer committee was created that included a Cherry Hill teacher who works with special needs children, a parent of nonverbal children, the president of the Cherry Hill Special Needs PTA and a longtime community advocate for special needs issues.
“Because of the pandemic, so many kids wanted to play outside,” said Mayor Susan Shin Angulo. “This will bring all of the kids as well as adults outside together and be a community … With the installation of these new communication boards, I am thrilled that it will now be easier for every child, regardless of their abilities, to enjoy all that our playgrounds have to offer.”
The township seeks feedback on the communication boards that, if well received, could mean they are installed at the rest of the township’s 31 parks by the end of the year. Feedback can be given at https://www.chnj.gov/1364/Communication-Boards or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.