PECS'ing along

Sophie's word book

So we've started using picture communication with Sophie. It was a bit overwhelming at first but through trial and error I believe we are close to having a system that works for us. I'm writing how we went about it, in case someone is wondering.

We did have a tentative start prior which I described here. However in all honesty we didn't follow through as much as we should have even though Sophie seemed to get it even then. I felt guilty about it of course (what don't I feel guilty about?) and did take time to think about a system that would work better for us. However, what really pushed me over the hump was reading other people's stories, the memoir "Schuyler's Monster" first (about Polymicrogyria) and then finding this blog post with a very good video. Seeing that video and that cute little girl made me really think "you know what? Sophie can do this!" And then I really got started in earnest.

I decided that for us to be able to be consistent and really use the PECS we needed our own pictures of everything in Sophie's life that she does and likes. The little cartoon drawings were too abstract for Sophie i think. I started with food :) and activities she likes to do in and out of the home. Added "action words" such as walk, drive, sleep, eat. Because of the blog and cell phones I already had all the pictures of Sophie doing "stuff" I needed, and just had to assemble pictures of favourite foods. Of course realized after the fact that I missed many other words that we need so now have a running list of "words Sophie needs" that we add to. Another trip to the printer is in my near future.

Since I use the ipad for all my computing needs, I looked for an app that would create the cards (creative graphic artist I am not). This one was free and did the job in an easy and straightforward way that I could understand (yes, I am not too tech-savvy, so that's a high praise indeed). I was able to take pictures right from within the app or upload from library, add captions, and even record my voice (I didn't use this option since I was going to print). The program allows you to send the cards to email or to an air printer. For full disclosure, it did crash a couple times and the picture file was very large (be aware of this when printing and make necessary adjustments) but all in all I was very happy with it and plan to use it again. Oh and did I mention it was free?

Corners of our home transformed into visual representations of themselves

So the first time we sent the cards to be printed, I did not check the file like I just advised and the pictures turned out HUGE. Like, 6 by 6 inches each. And cost a fortune. I was quite mad at myself but by the time I arrived home with my giant stack of giant cards I had already fallen in love with them and figured out I will use them stuck to my walls in appropriate places. Then of course I ordered the size I had originally wanted for Sophie's binder. I think having the small cards in the binder which is portable and can go with us everywhere and the big cards actually stuck where the item is in the home (pantry, toy area, etc) really adds the consistency and level of visual support Sophie needs.

I did fumble around with the details at first. I want the picture communication to be as close to speech as possible and so originally had all the words in the binder at once (my reasoning was- if she talked she could use any of the words she wanted any time she wanted. Who am I to limit the words she can use?). However, after continually fending off requests for fruit snacks and cupcake I decided that it would be less frustrating for everyone involved if she only had access to words for items she could actually have. For the time being anyway.

She started off requesting the food items only, but then pulled off the "climb" pic so we set up her climbing ramp for her. She uses the "watch tv" one too. Since she's rocking the requesting stage I am looking of how to expand beyond that level. We do offer her choices too or use it show her where we are going (walk to park, drive to playgroup, etc).

We are beyond happy that we've found a way to communicate with her. It is hard to say, but I think she is happy too. When she walks to the kitchen now she looks for her binder as opposed to rummaging through the pantry as she used to do. My next goal is to supplement any PECS that we missed and make her binders for specific situations. I'm thinking of making a camping binder for our upcoming trip and a school binder for September. Those binders would have pictures relevant to those settings, obviously.

If anybody has any questions about picture communication or how we resolved any issues please feel free to ask in comments or on Facebook. I am by no means an expert but I would love to help if I can!



  1. It's great that Sophie has taken to PECS so easily. Also take a look at the GoTalk device. We still use our GoTalk20 after all these years. It's fab.

  2. Thanks! We are actually going through the process of obtaining AAC technology for her. There is a specific procedure that the speech pathologists go through here apparently involving lots of forms being sent from one agency to another :) its all quite baffling but we are not in a rush. She will get AAC training in her nursery school as well. One step at a time right?

  3. I'm glad to hear of the progress, too! I think it's a good idea to use Sophie as a model in the pictures. Is she getting speech/communication therapy already, or are they just monitoring the progress?
    We have also been hiding the "to play with water" card until now, but Ville is now using any other card that has any connection with either the subject or "the one card"; so I guess we'll just have to keep it available and create new cards to try to explain "why not","when then", etc. We'll see how it goes.

    1. She's not getting actual therapy, they are just checking in with me from time to time. It's for the best at this point, Sophie is not into therapy, lol. We chat with the therapist and I use her more as a sounding board. They did meet with her as part of the nursery school evaluation and will work with her there in September.
      I am still learning and perfecting our system. I have to make some "first, then" cards and also "all done", "yes" "no" etc. those are important. I also hate manipulating her cards, taking out the ones I don't want her to use. On the other hand she is much more frustrated if shows me a card and I say no than if she can't find the card, at which point she seems unbothered.

  4. The best therapy is received at home anyway, I guess. The age difference probably shows here in her frustration, although our children seem to be roughly at the same stage of PECSing. At her age and for many more years it was hopeless to introduce the PECS system to Ville. Now when he brings me a card it feels a bit like a miracle, I haven't got used to that yet.
    I made him an A4 size first-then card with card places for the "first" and "then", but I'm not sure if it works with Ville. Time will tell (again). There is also an app, I believe it is called First-Then (surprise,surprise!), but I don't like the quality of the pictures. There is a possibility to record the voice or scroll the pictures.
    Ville has been using one of our flower beds for stimming purposes. We have now a few no-cards attached to a stick in various parts of the flower bed. It looks kind of funny and there is a vague hope that he is getting it.
    Incidentally, boardmaker seems to offer smileys for yes and no. I take it that you are rejecting them ("Do you have a headache?" " YES:)" "Are you still having a headache?" "NO:(" )

    1. I never thought about it that way! We are not using it, simply because I really don't know what would be "Sophie's terms" for yes and no. She doesn't understand body language, so a picture of a head shaking or nodding wouldn't work. I don't know if she would understand happy or sad faces either. Really, I don't think any cartoon representation of the words would have any meaning for her. I'm thinking of just using bold YES and NO words and have her learn them that way.

  5. We are using a green check mark and a red X ourselves. I don't think there is a non-symbolic way to put it. But since you put the "fruit snack" back into the binder, you ought to have plenty of situations to practice whatever cards you choose!
    The flower bed is recovering fine so far. And the grip tape on the other side of the card attaches well to the curtains of the living-room. New hope arising!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...