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SALT's attempts to get PECS going with DS3 have been a total debacle so far

(73 Posts)
Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 10:57:35

DS3 has a session with a SALT every week.

She's lovely, but very young and I think quite inexperienced. She hasn't done a proper PECS course herself, and her attempts to get DS3 using it have just been a total waste of time so far.

Is this normal? Does it mean that DS3 will never get the hang of PECS?

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 12:41:55

He won't unless the person doing it knows what they are doing. We had the same problem (which was why we had 8 months of trying to teach Makaton to a child who couldn't imitate).

Really (I know I'm a stuck record) I'd go on the course myself in your shoes. The 2 day workshop is excellent, and PECS was absolutely lifechanging for ds1. It still is to be honest. Alternatively come to Devon for a week's holiday & I'll come round and get him going on it (have more training in PECS than most SALTs )

Have you tried Makaton as well? Some children have a strong preference for one or the other. I think properly prompted it would be very unusual for an autistic child not to 'get' PECS. What are you using as reinforcment? Is it ds3's absolute favourite thing in the whole world? If it's not then change the reinforcer. How long a gap is he having between exchange and getting the reinforcer. It needs to be really, really quick.

We had some problems starting with ds1 because he didn't have a wide repertoire of reinforcers. They've only expanded through doing ABA and developing interests, but he learned the concept with one main reinforcer (chocolate buttons) & that was enough to 'get' it iyswim.

Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 14:20:51

She didn't use a reinforcer, other than the thing he was supposed to hand over the card in exchange for, iyswim.

Basically she wanted us to get him a toy that he really really liked - so I got one of those click-clack track things from ELC. The idea was that he was meant to hand over a card with a picture of one of the little cars on it, and in return get the little car itself.

But we couldn't even prise his hand open to get him to take the card .

Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 14:21:46

ps we are going to go on the course but it is circular - I don't think that DH will want to go to the trouble of taking two days out of everything else unless he is convinced that DS3 will benefit from PECS! So I have to get DS3 a little bit started first, I think.

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 14:28:49

Yes the thing he's exchanging for is the reinforcer at stage 1. Does he REALLY like the cars. Would he sell you to get his hands on one? It doesn't have to be a toy. There wasn't a oty in the land ds1 gave 2 stuffs about aged 3, but he was rather partial to chocolate buttons. Who is physically prompting him.

We didn't get it working properly until we went on the course. (Because we didn't have anyone trained properly working with him). Do you know anyone using PECS at home (properly - for communication, not just visual timetables), or do you know someone with lots of ABA/VB training? Getting it up and running with someone who doesn't understand discrete trial training is difficult.

How big is the piece of card you're using? If it;'s fiddly to pic up just cut up a huge piece of chunky cardboard into a square shape. it doesn't have to have a picture of the item on at stage 1- he just needs to understand that passing across a piece of card gets the reinforcer- the thing that he really really likes (you can use things other than cards as well, magnets etc, but worth trying cards properly for longer).

Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 14:36:21

He did really like the cars (well, only the blue one, he won't touch the other ones).

But he wouldn't even pick up the card, and my attempts to stuff it into his paw didn't work!

And now of course we have just caved in and let him have the blimmin toy all the time.

So will have to find somehting new.

The only foodstuff that might work is Pringles - he loves those. He won't touch chocolate buttons.

The portage lady said that there is a family a few streets away who are doing ABA so I might ask her if it would be possible to speak to them.

Otherwise DS3 and I are on a train to Devon .

bundle Tue 31-Jul-07 14:36:33

I once filmed a piece about PECS (with someone who worked at a specialist school for children with autism in Yorkshire) - both with a young child and an older one (both at the same level iykwim, had only just started).

the main things that stuck in my mind were the "teacher":

laminated the images (whether drawn or from magazines/books - they were v simple) so they last longer - hers also had a velcro blob on the back and could then be put onto a chart to reinforce how well the child had done (and for rewards). the pictures in teh schoolroom for the older children were used as a kind of timetable so that the day was comfortably predictable and in manageable blocks

started with just one or two images eg chocolate (!) keeping it very specific, right down to the flavour of crisps the child liked. he was about 3 or 4 as far as I can remember and "got" it pretty quickly but each child is obviously different

I do hope you can get some more help with this, and that it's worth all the effort, xx

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 14:42:37

Make the card bigger and chunkier dino, so that you can sit behind him and you only have to scrape the card for him to be able to pick it up. Nice laminated PECS cards can come later. It doesn't even have to be a card you can start with anything providing he can pick it up.

Pringles good- (although not if you're doing gf stuff- they're full of MSG!!- DS1 will kill for a pringle), they can be broken into smaller pieces so you get lots of exchanges for one pringle.

DS1's original cards that he learned from were the image sellotaped onto a big thick piece of card- because he's quite dyspraxic it made it a lot easier than fiddling with the other stuff, we just kind of scraped his hand over it.

Would love to get babydino stareted on PECS- it's incredibly rewarding when they suddenly get it- a whole new world awaits.....

Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 14:43:32

Thanks, gess and bundle .

Must do the course!

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 14:45:12

Another thought- although you don't start with the book if you take your chunky card and put some velcro (or bluetack) on the bottom of it so it holds it off the table a bit it is easier to scrape it up.

bundle Tue 31-Jul-07 14:50:04

I could sometimes kill for a pringle too

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 14:51:31

well yes, dh to apparently. I tired to ban them (because ds1 will climb up and seek them out wherever they are) but dh still comes back with the occasional packet then moans when he finds ds1 having a secret picnic.

Woooozle100 Tue 31-Jul-07 16:05:14

Dinosaur - we didn't have much luck with pecs either. DD really just wasn't motivated sufficiently to do it - couldn't find anything that she wanted badly enough - she was just as happy sticking the card in her mouth than with any object / foodstuff we were trying to swap it for.

She has started showing signs of imitation so we are trying with Makaton again. Failing that, we'll give PECS another bash when she's a little older and maybe not so passive

All the best

Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 16:10:01

Thanks ejb - I wish you luck with makaton .

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 16:44:59

Lack of reinforcers is the biggest hurdle to getting PECS up and running. According to the manual you should have your list of 10ish reinforcers IME this just doesn't always happen with passive kids, but one reinforcer is enough to get going if its a strong one.

I think another problem when you've got people teaching you who don't really understand ABA is that they start deciding what the child should find reinforcing, and they decide for example food is 'bad' and it has to be a toy or something. It has to be child led. If the only thing the child will get out of bed for is food, then it has to be food. We had years of SALTs merrily shrieking bubbles whilst ds1 refused to to move from the sink. It was like they'd been taught 'children like bubbles". I remember ds1's NHS SALT telling us it was 'impossible' to do any work with him as 'he doesn;t like anything'. Luckily we had a very experience private SALT at the time who said 'rubbish' and proceeded to find out what he liked and worked with that.

Good luck with Makaton ejb. I'm a big believer in usiung both btw (having seen davros' son use both well). We're introducing Makaton now to ds1 (aged 8, now he can finally imitate) and having both is really useful. Makaton is more spontaneous, and although his signing isn't great I understand it. We still use PECS as well.

moondog Tue 31-Jul-07 17:17:51

Dino, she can't teach pecs unless she has been on a pecs course,so there is no way you are going to get this right.

It;s a complete waste of time otherwise for you all.

I'm a salt with may years PECS experience.


Dinosaur Tue 31-Jul-07 17:22:56

Yes moondog I will do but it just takes a lot of organising/persuading etc!

moondog Tue 31-Jul-07 17:30:34


moondog Tue 31-Jul-07 17:31:49



Sorry for barking but it just isn't good enough.

staryeyed Tue 31-Jul-07 18:25:25

Dinosaur I have the very same experience with my SALT (posted below) in fact I would describe her in the same way aswell. Am booking myself on PECS course in August as recommended by SN mumsnetters.

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 18:25:36

Moondog's right dino.

PECS really is worth the effort if you have a child who isn't comunicating in other ways. The pyramid courses are really good as well- very professional.

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 18:28:27

The other thing to look into if the workshop is too difficult is to get them to come to your home. I have no idea how much that costs, but they will come out and set it up and get it running.

Davros Tue 31-Jul-07 18:40:25

I agree, it really is essential to persevere with PECs and there are very few kids who can't get it, but they won't if its not done properly. Also, don't expect him to pick up the picture/symbol (whatever) himself. You need hand-over-hand prompt, holding the thing in his hand physically and giving the reinforcer FAST. In our ABA prog we used a reinforcer assessment sheet frequently to ensure we were keeping it relevant (which I could send to you) and I also have a 2 page doc about reinforcement written by an ABA-UK member long ago (I got his permission to pass on). I could post that here if anyone is interested, or start another thread......... As gess says, it really doesn't have to be either/or PECs or signing, DS uses both very effectively but they were not introduced at the same time, that could cause confusion!

Davros Tue 31-Jul-07 18:41:54

I also meant to say, it seems very common to me for PECs to be started, not done correctly and then abandoned. We did it ourselves as we were confused about the role of communication TO us vs using pictures/symbols to communicate WITH DS, e.g timetabling etc. We then got started again but were much more vigilant, aware and better trained by then!

gess Tue 31-Jul-07 19:46:14

Agree about that being a problem Davros. Pyramid always sound a bit anal about the whole visual timetable is NOT PECS thing, but I think its probably because they come across so many pigs eared efforts confusing the two.

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