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Lakewood elementary school creates sign to help children with disabilities express themselves

Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 17:36:42-04

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — A Lakewood elementary school is taking steps to make sure that all children can be heard.

Over the summer, Horace Mann Elementary School's speech pathologist VernaAnn Kotansky saw a board on Facebook that helps students with special needs.

Kotansky went to Erie Design in Lakewood and, with the help of owners Shawn and Julie Warren, created a sign that children with special needs can go to and touch or point to when they want to express something but can't find the words.

Kotansky and her husband installed the sign on the playground the night before the first day of school.

"My hope is for each of the elementary buildings in Lakewood to have a similar communication board on their playgrounds," Kotansky said. "The communication boards would need to be individualized specific for the equipment on the individual playgrounds. Ultimately, I would love to see a board similar to this available to individuals at the city playgrounds as well."

According to school officials, the sign has helped squelch behavior issues that may have arisen otherwise.

"It's important to remember that individuals communicate in many different ways. While speaking is the most familiar manner in which we communicate, using sign language, alternative communication systems, devices, body language and gestures are all ways to share thoughts and ideas," Kotansky said.

Kotansky said the presence of the communication board on the playground provides opportunities not only for those who many need this form of communication, but for others to be aware of these different forms of communication and to build an environment of acceptance.

"All of the students at Horace Mann school have access to the communication board on the playground. All students at Horace Mann school have the opportunity to build relationships and create memories. All students at Horace Mann school are important not only to the Horace Mann community, but to the greater Lakewood community and beyond. I am proud to have been able to provide this resource for the students at Lakewood City Schools," Kotansky said.