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James City County, in collaboration with the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC), partnered to bring augmentative and alternative communication boards to County parks. The goal of the boards is to make it easier for non-verbal children to interact with other children and adults at the parks and other recreational areas, enabling them to communicate by pointing to symbols and images to express themselves. Teachers and adults can also point to symbols to help model behavior, ask questions, or give instructions to children with limited verbal abilities.
Installation of the stations in County park playgrounds began in October at Veterans Park (Kidsburg). Six additional signs – at Chickahominy Riverfront Park, Freedom Park, James City County Recreation Center Park, Little Creek Reservoir Park and on the Warhill Sports Complex baseball and football fields – will be installed over the next year.
Last year, WJCC installed 49 communication boards on playgrounds and throughout nine elementary school sites. “We designed these signs to increase opportunities for students with limited expressive language within our schools to communicate and interact. We are thrilled our partnership with Parks & Recreation means these signs will be available to more children in the community at nearby parks,” said Adam Brown, Ed.D., WJCC Director of Special Education. “The signs are already encouraging inclusivity at schools by giving other students another way to communicate with fellow non-verbal students.”
“We’re always striving to be more inclusive and accessible, and working with WJCC on this project will allow children of all abilities to have a positive experience while on our playgrounds and in our parks,” said County Inclusion Coordinator Tracy Newsom. Therapeutic recreation leader Karryna Austin took the lead in County project coordination, tasked with visiting each park to determine feasibility. Michelle Lightfoot, County parks operations manager, oversaw sign placements and installation in the parks. Funded by the schools, the project is almost entirely covered with federal funds received as a result of COVID-19.
Pictured (l-r): Adam Brown, Tracy Newsom and Karryna Austin
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