WACO, Texas (Fox 44) — Schools in Waco ISD are becoming more inclusive, making sure every student has equal access regardless of the challenges they face.

The speech language pathologist at Hillcrest Professional Development School, Elizabeth Updegrove, is passionate about everyone having equal access to communication.

She says they all deserve the opportunity to ask a friend or teacher to push them on the swing and express themselves.

Thanks to the communication board, now they can do that on the playground and the classroom.

Updegrove says they have a lot of students with communication delays or disabilities.

“They’re not able to effectively tell people if they want something, or if they’re hurt, or how they’re feeling about it,” Updegrove said. “And so a communication system like this lets them be able to ask what they want and need and be able to express themselves and communicate with all of their peers.”

The communication board provides a picture based communication system of core words such as I, you, want, need, yes and no. It also has playground based words such as ball and swing.

“So many of our students just don’t have a way to communicate that,” Updegrove said. “And so they might be taking their shoe off, and the teacher’s trying to put their shoe back on. Maybe there’s something poking their foot inside their shoe, and they don’t have a way to communicate that. Or maybe they’re not feeling well.”

She says other students have the ability to ask their peers to play ball with them. This board gives everyone the chance to do that.

“They’ve taken right to it,” Updegrove said. “They’ve gone, and they’ve run straight up and started using it. They recognize that this is opening a whole world for them to be able to communicate as well.”

The board goes two ways – kids communicating to others and receiving information from others.

“It also help them with receptive language disabilities,” Updegrove said. “Their peers or their teachers can share the visual of what they’re saying, whether that’s telling them that they’re going to go inside or another student coming up and asking, do you want to swing with me? And that can help our students who have comprehension weaknesses to be able to understand as well.”

This is a dream come true for Updagrove, but also a step in the right direction for Waco ISD.

“I am so incredibly grateful for her and always making sure that all of our students have access to what they need regardless of their disabilities or their limitations,” HPDS Principal Haley Dean said. “She wants to make sure that everybody has a level playing field.”

Updegrove says the goal is to get these boards at the other elementary schools.