Communication board makes Carrier Park playground more inviting for non-verbal and semi-verbal kids

spade cipriano standing behind display boardA local Senior Girl Scout is making the Carrier Park playground a more inclusive space for non-verbal and semi-verbal kids. Spade Cipriano designed and installed a communication board earlier this year. To use the board, kids point to pictures to express their thoughts and feelings.

Spade said they initially reached out to parents on an autism Facebook page with a survey asking what icons and words to include and which parks their families visited most often. They designed the board to foster community spirit and encourage an inclusive, more equitable play environment. After reaching out to Asheville Parks & Recreation, they installed the board at the playground.

“I’m a strong advocate for rare disease awareness and disability rights due to my Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) and ADHD diagnoses,” according to Spade, who was a senior at the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville (SILSA) at time of the project. “My passion for spreading awareness and promoting equity has led me to find another passion, working with kids! So, for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I wanted to install a communication board in an Asheville park for non-verbal and semi-verbal children. I am really excited about my project and so grateful for this community’s participation!”

One community the board can help is children with autism. 25 to 30 percent of children with autism are verbally challenged or completely non-verbal. Some of these non-verbal children may be able to develop phrase speech skills with continued work on language and social skill development.

Spade is now a Chemistry major at Guilford College. Carrier Park is located on 220 Amboy Rd.