Published on August 27, 2021

Ozarks Healthcare Speech Pathologist turns Idea into Reality to help Children with Communication Barriers

Celsie Morrow, speech pathologist at Ozarks Healthcare Therapies, works with children who have delayed verbal skills or diagnoses such as autism that can sometimes alter the way they communicate. Celsie helps teach her patients to communicate nonverbally, sometimes by using pictures or different types of technology. After noticing some of her youngest patients did not always take their communication devices with them everywhere, she saw an opportunity to install outdoor communication boards at area playgrounds so that children could easily communicate while away from their therapy devices.

Celsie worked with her Ozarks Healthcare Therapies team to help make her idea of creating communication boards that include symbols to offer visual support for nonverbal children to express their ideas and feelings come to life. Now, three of these communication boards are displayed at area playgrounds, including the West Plains Splash Pad, Early Childhood Special Education at the West Plains School District, and Junction Hill School District.

“With a lot of the kids I see who are nonverbal, they don’t always have a diagnosis – they could have also delayed language skills,” Celsie said. “We use signing, picture exchange, and different methods to communicate. They have limited communication, but everyone deserves a voice all the time, during every situation.”

The communication boards also help spread awareness about children who have difficulty communicating traditionally and the need for all ages to know how to use other forms of communication.

“This is also an educational tool for parents and those in the community,” Celsie said. “I didn’t realize how many people didn’t understand how we use pictures to communicate with our nonverbal children, so this is an opportunity to help us bridge this gap.”

Instructions for use are displayed on each communication board, allowing easy access to language while children play.

“We are proud to have one of the outdoor communication boards at the splash pad at People’s Park,” Todd Shanks, City of West Plains Community Service Director, said. “The splash pad was installed for the enjoyment of all of our community youth. The communication board helps make the splash pad welcoming to all children.”

Ozarks Healthcare Therapies takes a team approach to meeting each patient's therapy needs. In cases when a patient requires more than one rehabilitation service, all therapists work together with the patient and his or her family to develop and carry out the best possible plan for achieving therapy goals. For more information about Ozarks Healthcare Therapies, visit https://www.ozarkshealthcare.com/services/therapies/.

Ozarks Healthcare is a system of care encompassing primary care and specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home health services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire health system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas. For more information about Ozarks Healthcare, visit www.OzarksHealthcare.com.

Celsie Morrow, speech pathologist at Ozarks Healthcare Therapies, poses with a new communication board created to help nonverbal children communicate while playing at the West Plains Splash Pad. 

From left to right: Celsie Morrow, speech pathologist at Ozarks Healthcare Therapies, is pictured with John Dern, Superintendent, and Tim Perkins, Principal, beside the communication board that is now displayed at the Junction Hill School District. 

Celsie Morrow, speech pathologist at Ozarks Healthcare Therapies (second to left), is pictured with Lesley Dennis (far left), Lisa Chezem (second to right), and Nicole Martinez (far right), all of the West Plains School District, beside the communication board that is now displayed at Early Childhood Special Education. 

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