SAYREVILLE – For the students at the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL), the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is more than a just saying, it is how they connect to others and express their needs.
For almost 11 years, Terese Manalansan, a speech-language pathologist, has been dedicated to helping students with communication challenges, autism and special needs. She performs speech, language, augmentative alternative communication (AAC) and feeding therapy to the CLL students in Sayreville, according to a statement provided by the center.
Manalansan is now creating picture core boards, also known as manual communication boards. She and her colleagues place these boards around the school so non-verbal students can communicate without technology devices. For a student to be able to communicate without using words, it is life-changing, according to the statement.
“Most of our non-verbal students have communication systems but we have noticed that they are not always available due to different reasons such as technical difficulties, iPads not being charged or broken, the environment is not conducive for devices (such as the pool), etc.,” Manalansan said in the statement. “I want to make sure that any student who may need to communicate may do so in any part of the school.”
Manalansan learned about these boards last summer while she was in the Gold Coast region of Australia presenting at the International Society of Augmentative Alternative Communication Convention.
“I visited a playground with picture boards in different activity areas and thought it would be great to bring the concept back home and create picture boards for different parts of the school,” she said in the statement. “Pictures are universal and an easy means of communication.”
The clip-art photos are placed strategically in columns; students can easily point to the picture to help express an emotion, specific item or activity.
“The students are able to convey an idea quickly just by pointing to a picture,” Manalansan said in the statement. “For example, the picture board in the cafeteria has different photos relating to foods, beverages, utensils and eating skills.”
The boards are also located in the music room, pool, gym, cafeteria and other locations that students do not usually have access to communication systems.
The accessibility to picture boards has led to behavior improvements in some students because they are able to communicate and make more personalized choices, according to the statement. Teachers have also been trained on how to use the core boards so as to better support their students.
Manalansan and the speech department of CLL at the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey plan to create more picture boards, with the ultimate goal of developing universal picture communications for all ESCNJ students who require them, according to the statement.