CARTHAGE, Mo. — It’s an extra special trip to the park for 7-year-old Ezra Simmons.

“We adopted him from China when he was two and a half. He has Down Syndrome and he is autistic,” said Melinda Simmons, Ezra’s mom.

And he’s non-verbal.

But this park has a new feature called a communication board – images that can help kids like Ezra get the message across.

“The communication board allows them to identify their wants, their needs, and helps them ask questions and helps them give information to other students or to their parents about what they’re wanting to do or how they’re wanting to play,” said Bryan Shallenburger, Carthage R-9 Spec. Svcs. Dir.

It’s similar to message boards common in special ed classrooms, but harder to find outside of school.

“I think the closest one might be in Kansas City or Springfield or something like that. So this is the first one. I’d really love to see other organizations as they start to build parks or add a communication board to their parks,” said Shallenburger.

A donation from the group “Here 4 Carthage” paid for the sign in a joint project with the Carthage School District and Sign Designs. There’s also the Carthage Parks Department, which had already been working toward a park for all kids.

“I love that we have the zero entry ramp up here so that people who are in wheelchairs can go all the way up into and be able to get up pretty high and play with kids of this, you know, different abilities. And the merry-go-round is level with the ground so you don’t have to try to get up onto but you could just roll right up onto as well,” said Abi Almandinger, Carthage Parks Dir.

And Carthage mom Melinda Simmons adds, it’s not just the communication board itself, but how it all happened.

“Something that’s really common when you have a child with a disability is that if you want something to change…or you see something that your child needs, a lot of times parents have to make that happen. And so the fact that our community here in Carthage made that happen means more to me as a mom than I can even express.”