SYMBOL-based communication boards will be installed in Rhyl to help children who struggle with their speech and language.

A total of 300 symbol-based communication boards will be installed in parks and public spaces across Rhyl and other regions in Wales. The boards aim to support interactions, play and fun between children of all ages and abilities and promote inclusion for all children.

The visual boards are one of many alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) methods developed for children who have speech, language, and communication difficulties - these could be children with cerebral palsy or autism spectrum conditions – to offer an alternative method of communication instead of speech.


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Designed by a group of specialist Speech and Language Therapists, the boards contain a range of universal symbols and useful words in both Welsh and English and are designed to be pointed at by children and their families or carers to convey what they want to say.

Libby Jeffries, Speech and Language Therapist at Hywel Dda University Health Board and National Lead for the communication board rollout, said: “Having the opportunity to provide an extremely valuable tool for children and their families across the whole of Wales is really exciting. Following the success of our pilot project in Ceredigion, we’ve worked hard to ensure that children across the country could benefit from this initiative.

"We have learnt from feedback that not only do the boards provide an alternative way of communicating, but they can be used as a tool for Welsh and English language learning, and also importantly help to raise awareness of different ways of ways of communicating and communication difficulties.”

The project was first introduced across Hywel Dda University Health Board as a "first-of-its-kind" for Wales.


The rollout of the boards has been made possible through £26,000 of funding from the Welsh Government’s Talk With Me programme, which shares speech, language, and communication skills advice with parents and caregivers for children aged between 0-5.

A separate project is also underway to help provide a voice for children who are non-verbal or who have limited speech through the use of a specialist high-tech device. Voice output communication aids are already available for certain children who have difficulties with speech, but currently Welsh children using the devices are limited to either English accented children’s voices or Welsh language adult voices.

Funding of £271,000 provided by the Welsh Government is set to change to this, with a series of children’s voices now being recorded in both the English and Welsh language, developed in partnership by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, speech synthesis company, CereProc and Bangor University, which is responsible for the Welsh language side of the project, including the drafting of scripts, recording the voices using actors, and the testing which is done by a pheneticist from the university.

In total, 16 new voices will be available, reflective of the regions and dialects across Wales and appropriately representing the children who rely on the devices to communicate.

Dr Jeffrey Morris, head of the Electronic Assistive Technology Service for Wales and leading the delivery of the new Welsh voices, said: “Due to the cost of development, companies operating in this field have unfortunately previously been unable to prioritise dialects and language models, and so we are thankful to the Welsh Government for stepping in and funding this important work which will have an immense impact on the children who rely on these devices. We anticipate that these new voices will further reduce barriers to children using high-tech communication devices in Wales, allowing them to speak with an accent and language representative of their family and peers.”

It is expected that the new voices will be available to children through NHS Wales later this year, providing a transformative solution for Welsh children who require artificial aids to help them talk.

Julie Morgan, deputy minister for Social Services, said: “I am delighted that Welsh Government has been able to fund these two innovative projects which will help children across Wales communicate. Talking, engaging and playing with children is one of the best ways we can help them to thrive and develop and this investment further support our commitment to ensure children in Wales are given the best platform possible to reach their true potential.”

To find out more about Talk With Me, and to download a free Parent and Carer Pack, click here.