Friday, September 28, 2012

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

I want to introduce a system that we've come to adapt in our household, to accommodate O's language developments: its called "PECS" - the Picture Exchange Communication System.  

Essentially, it is the use of pictures in place of words for actions and items; rather than ask my son what activity he would like to do next - and rattle of four or five options that would verbally overwhelm him - I hand him his book of pictures, and he picks the activity from a page of velcro-ed images.

Here's how we made O's book:

We bought this small three-ringed binder from Staples, and two sets of these, as well, to divide up the categories in his book.    (I also purchased a package of this hard, plastic "paper" to use inside the book as pages that hold velcro strips with the images...but I can't for the life of me remember what that "paper" is called!)  I used my label maker to divvy up the different categories we'd have for O to search through on various occasions.

I then went through and found images - almost entirely from google-image searches - and saved them to my desktop.  I wanted each image to be a square, and be the exact same size in the binder.  Here's how I did that in Open Office for Macs (I'm not sure if it is the same for PCs):

First, I cropped each image in to the square, and then copy/pasted them individually in to a word document. To make an image down to the perfect size in word, you right click the image, click "picture."  In the "Type" section, you have the option to change the height and width.  Because I wanted all of my images to be the same size (and fit in the binder well), I changed the width and height to be equal to one another.

I printed out pages and pages of these perfectly sized images.  For extra protection, I ran them through my laminator (you can take your images to Kinkos to be laminated.  Given how much use our PECS images get used, I'm glad we took this extra step!).

I cut them out in to the perfect size, and put velcro dots on the back:

I did this for all of the categories:

We also have a section for routines.  I've posted his Bedtime Routine below as an example: it shows all of the steps we take to get ready for bed.  He's been doing this specific routine for so long, that we don't use this set any more.  But, if we have to change the routine for some reason, we change it on this sheet, and then use it to go through each step.  It helps him to better visualize what he is doing next, and what it is ultimately leading to.

Now that O is becoming more verbal, we don't use this as often as in the past.  But for a long time, this book was a life saver!  Whenever O was having a meltdown, instead of trying to list a dozen different things he might want ("sweetie, do you want a sippy? a banana? do you want to color? want to watch cars? what about a nap - are you tired?"), I would hand him the book, and he would flip through it to find an activity that could help calm him down.  

And, given the size, it fits so nicely in my diaper bag or suitcase for traveling!

This book definitely took time and effort to put together - and it honestly is still a work in project.  Sometimes I have to remove activities that are no longer feasible, or that are season oriented (like swimming or going to the park).  And I have to add other activities to fill their spots, or activities in which O has becoming newly interested.  But it has been a worthwhile investment.  This book has shortened meltdowns, and made decision making significantly easier for O. 

Hopefully you can take something away from this post that can help your child communicate with you in a more effective fashion!

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