Mayor Gary Christenson, City Council President Neal Anderson, School Committee members Michelle Luong and Jennifer Spadafora along with School Superintendent Ligia Noreiga-Murphy, School Administrators, Disability Commission members, teachers and students were on hand for a ribbon cutting at the Early Learning Center to celebrate the installation of two Augmentative and Alternative Communication Boards (AAC Boards), which was highlighted in a news story on WCVB Channel 5. AAC Boards are in the process of being installed at all Malden school playgrounds. These boards display photos, symbols and/or illustrations to help facilitate communication and improve access to communication for those with different communication needs. This includes autistic students, those with emotional disabilities and those with speech and language processing delays. This tool helps to create communication by affording opportunities where a student can point or gesture to the symbol(s) on the AAC Board. The symbols are used in schools and this initiative will now bring this mode of communication to Malden’s school playgrounds.
The AAC Boards initiative came about through the work and advocacy of Malden's Disability Commission. The Commission assists the City of Malden and its residents in bringing about full integration and participation of people of all abilities. At one of its monthly meetings, Imene Bouziane Saidi, a Malden Public School parent spoke during Public Comment and described the importance of AAC Boards and how they can assist students. As a mother of three boys, one of which benefited from having an AAC device to bolster his language and communication needs, she suggested that the Disability Commission consider advocating for the inclusion of the AAC boards on school playgrounds.
“I’m grateful to Imene Bouziane Saidi and the Disability Commission for coming forward and advocating for this positive addition to school playgrounds,” said Mayor Christenson. “This is a great tool for children of differing abilities to better communicate and feel supported and included.”
With her help and in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and School Administration, the members of the Disability Commission worked to obtain a license for the boards through Communication IsKey, secure a local printer to produce the boards (Sign Art) and identify the playgrounds where to install them.