Cheap and Easy Communication Methods for Students who are Non-Verbal

I think teaching our kids to communicate is one of the most important and meaningful things we can teach our kiddos. Teaching any young child to communicate his/her wants and needs can be difficult, but teaching a kid with a disability AND a kid who is non-verbal can be tricky. Communication is one of my favorite things to work on in our classroom because it opens up SO many doors for our kids!!

Communication boards, curriculum, and systems can be very expensive if you buy them from retail stores. I wanted to share some of my VERY cheap and easy alternatives to the pricey well known communication systems.

-First/Then boards:
First/then boards can be made in so many ways. I have small ones to use with our communication binders like this one:

My favorite way to use first/then boards is on plastic folders. Attach a first/then paper to a folder and attach the picture symbols on the inside of the folder. This form of first/then board is great because it can be easily personalized and each student who needs a first/then board can have one.

-Choice boards/ "I want ____":
We use choice boards A LOT. We use them during free time, meal time, sensory time and even work time. Students have symbols to tell us what food/drink they want, and what they want to do at free time (iPad, computer, listen to music, etc.). During center and task box time, students can also use choice boards to decide what task/center they want to work on. I have a "I want _____" board available to students at all times. The same applies to "I want ____" boards as to the choice boards, don't give students the chance to say they want something if they can't have it or if you don't have it. For the love of keeping kids from getting seriously ticked off, take the fruit snack picture symbol away if you run out of fruit snacks!!!

Note: attach an envelope to the back of first/then boards, choice boards, "I want ____" boards, and communication binders to hold the picture symbols that are not an option at the time. Put a large X or the picture symbol for "no" on the envelope so students know that those picture symbols are off limits.

-Communication binder:
Communication boards don't need to be the fancy (and expensive) PECS books. You can easily make your own with a binder, velcro, and file folders. Here is an example of the binders I use with some of our non-verbal kiddos.

-Working for board/ Token economy