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PECS and visual support

(36 Posts)
claw3 Mon 05-Oct-09 23:06:14

Ds 5.5 is verbal, has good vocabulary and a good memory, but has problems communicating his needs, asking for help and remembering names, recalling earlier events etc.

He is very visual ie he describes things and people, rather than referring to them by name.

It seems the school have started to recognise this and it would appear have given him 3 basic cards. (i havent seen these, so only what ds has told me)and have basically given him the cards and told him what they are for.

One with a smiley face on = i want help, he then has to explain what he wants help with.

One with an elephant on = permission to go and see his mentor.

One with a toilet on = i want to go to the toilet (this was suppose to mean, that he had soiled himself and needed his wet wipes and change of trousers that the teacher has and help)

These cards were put together by SENCO with no involvement from SALT.

I will be having a meeting next week to discuss this and would like to go with as much information as poss, as i currently know very little.

Moondog has already supplied me with a link to PECS.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

claw3 Mon 05-Oct-09 23:14:52

Would also add i am busy googling too, but have always found the help and support on here invaluable.

elmosworld Mon 05-Oct-09 23:23:54

We've just started PECS with DS - he is non-verbal though - and so far so good.

If your son is using them and they are working then I'd keep going with it, use the same cards at home, families houses and out and about if he struggles.

Children with ASD are very often visual (as you know!) and can benefit from using PECS and also visual timetables tremendously- I have these in the house as DS can understand what we are going to be doing. It helps ease the frustration (if we are going to do something differently for example) and it makes him more comfortable.

You can make your own timetables, schedules and social stories, laminate them and use them whenever. If your DS likes to be in control then have "tick boxes" too so that he can tick off what you have done and tell you what is next.

Sounds like you have a good SENCo anyway!

Good Luck at the meeting!

claw3 Mon 05-Oct-09 23:45:04

Thanks Elmo for replying, i will ask the school if i can have copies of what they are using.

Visual timetables sound good too, i have to warn him in advance about having a bath otherwise he gets very distressed. Oh and ticking boxes is his thing.

What kind of things do you use cards for, obviously each child is different, but just an idea, totally new to me?

Also visual timetables, of the whole day or just things he may get distressed about?

moondog Mon 05-Oct-09 23:52:15

Claw, there is a really good book on using visual support I often recommend on MN (I'm a SALT) but my workstuff not here and exact title eludes me for now. Aaargh!! I'll get back to you on it (it's a great read, most interesting) or someone else may help you out in the meantime.

SALTs are very glad that people use visual support (it took years to persuade many school staff that speech sometimes wasn't enough) but now in fits of misguided enthusiams they are often over proscribed or poorly thought out (as may be the case here).

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 00:15:49

Thanks Moondog much appreciated.

I dont see the point of him holding up a card for help and then having to ask for what he needs help with. Thats the problem he doesnt want to ask for help.

Also the toilet he can ask to go to the toilet, no problem. What he wont ask for is help when he soils himself. But the school are using this card for when he needs to go to the toilet.

I also suggested that he have a quiet place to go when overwhelmed (he likes being on his own). He has been hiding behind the outside toilet block at break times. They have given him a pass to go to the mentor and tell her whats bothering him.

He also tells me he tried to use the help card during carpet time and was told he was not allowed to use it then (not sure if this is true)

I thought i made this clear during the meeting last week, perhaps i didnt, i really need to clarify exactly what the cards are for and when they can be used, relying on a child with communication problems to tell me isnt going to work!

elmosworld Tue 06-Oct-09 01:01:12


Well we've only just began using PECS as an alternate form of communication, so we are just starting with the basics. He is non-verbal as I said so it is basically foods and toys... to get what he wants at the moment. Obviously you don't need that with your DS.

I have seen these little key chain things on eBay which are PECS cards on a clip keyring with emotions and needs on - from what you said this is the sort of thing DS struggles with? Getting things across that he needs or feels?

I don't use timetables for the whole day.. DS would be standing above me checking that I do the laundry before I do the dishes lol.

I do it for bedtime. He has a bath everynight but hates having his hair washed so we do that about 3 times a week, if it is hairwash night then we have a timetable for the time in the bath: Toys, Splash, Face, Body, Shampoo, Play, Out... then straight on with the bedtime routine.

Then we have a schedule board for where we are going:

We are going to.... (nanna's) (^speech therapy^) (farm) We are going on the (car) (bus) (train) and on the way we are going to the (shop) (bank)

Sure you can see what I mean!

I first introduced them because he was awful at bedtime if we didn't do everything in a strict order but we had to make some changes - such as him walking to bed as he was getting too big to carry, and he couldn't take his milk up with him anymore because he has now developed an obsession with pouring hmm so he now has his milk downstairs and walks to bed...

If you make up schedules and get some social stories too (google "social stories free") then you can download and make one's that you need. Your son may be absolutely fine at going the bed, but be a total pain at sitting and eating his breakfast and getting ready for school so you could use one then..

Are you with a SALT still? If you think that DS has trouble expressing his thoughts, needs, emotions (even if he can chatter away) then they may be able to give you some more advice about using PECS as an understanding/expressive aid. Having said that, the school will probably teach you everything you need to know!

Good Luck. (Sorry for long post!)

elmosworld Tue 06-Oct-09 01:09:28

Oops also meant to add, that if you have concerns about how they are being used and so on, then you are able to ask to have it changed to how you think would be more appropriate - you know him better! But there sometimes is method in their madness with the holding up the card and saying what it is - the idea with PECS is that the word(s) get said with the card and then the child using PECS will (hopefully) A) associate the picture with the need/desire/emotion and B) get used to using the words and understanding the words - so eventually they can ditch the PECS and just say what they want instead. HTH

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 01:09:40

Battery is about to run out on laptop and charger is downstairs.

Didnt want to be rude and just disappear. Will have to read in morning.

Thank you very much, will have a good read tomorrow. Good night

Phoenix4725 Tue 06-Oct-09 07:36:10

I would reccomend doing the Pecs course if you can .I found t really good and gave me confidence that was using it the right way

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 07:39:02

Elmos - Good morning and thank you again.

Ds does have problems with eating ie he doesnt or he wants to eat every 5 minutes, one bite, full up, then starving again and so on. He also has a food phobia. So a visual time table could really help in this area.

He doesnt like getting in the bath and as for bed, he doesnt sleep. God our life will be one big visual time table

SALT has only just become involved (despite needed treatment since he was 2, he has never had any, long story. I have basically been very naive and thought all i would have to do is explain what the problem was and help would be forthcoming! An official complaint seems to have got the ball rolling.

Yes i can see the logic behind holding up the card and saying what it is ie i need help, problem for ds is then having to explain himself, which he cant do, a) he gets confused and b) it draws attention to him iyswim.

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 08:32:18

Moondog - Sorry im really picking your brains lately, so many questions.

The situation i explained above ie having problems explaining what he wants, needs or how he is feeling, would the solution be basically more cards?

Are the PECS cards like a standard pack or are these cards made especially to suit individuals?

Phoenix - i did see that they do courses for parents on the link that Moondog gave and i think it would be a good idea and very helpful to do a course.

moondog Tue 06-Oct-09 08:44:29

Claw, it's not really appropriate for me to 'do SALT on the Internet so I only try to give pointers nad suggestions here.
However from what you say I wonder if PECS is appropriate. If he has enough language to explain that he wasn't ''allowed'' to use a particular card it suggests he has resonable language but problems with interaction/initiation.

A SALT should be able to sort these out and support using a visual calendar and/or timetable could really help (search for posts under my nae onthis topic, as I have discussed this extensively with many people, in particular Lingle).

Spend some time on the Pyramid website-it explains very clearly what PECS is and what the 6 phases it comprises entail.

linglette Tue 06-Oct-09 09:04:38

Claw3: it's

"Visual Strategies for Improving Communication - practical supports for school and home". The author is Linda A Hodgon.

I think everyone should buy borrow or steal this book because it doesn't just show you what to do or how to do it, it explains "Why" you are doing it (because lots of visual stuff is quite counterintuitive for most women which means most teachers and most mothers).

I think a good teacher who really absorbed the "why" bit (the hardest bit I think) could go on to use her own creativity and professional expertise to design her own visual aids as the child develops smile

You said he likes ticking off boxes - sounds familiar - have you used moondog's timetimer and calendar ideas? I'm trying to get a timetimer into our nursery class.

moondog Tue 06-Oct-09 09:19:41

Ah, thank you Linglette.
<hands in resignation letter>

linglette Tue 06-Oct-09 09:43:52

elmosworld Tue 06-Oct-09 12:38:43

Gotta love mumsnet! just bought that book on Amazon... thank you!

Claw, it's no problem at all. Really hope something works out for you soon with the SALT and others!

I don't think that it is naivity as such, I'm sure we can all admit to trusting the professionals opinion 100%, even when we know otherwise! And that they are doing everything they can, as quickly as possible.

We should be able to, it's a shame we do have to scream so much!
(((More money into the NHS please!!!)))

elmosworld Tue 06-Oct-09 12:41:01

PS. When you finally get to a SALT (and others) that is consistantly seeing your LO and learns about them and you, it is much easier!

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 22:02:17

Linglette - Thanks i have just ordered a copy and no sorry i havent used the timetimer or calender ideas?

Yes he does love ticking a box!

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 22:22:50

Moondog - He is very verbal and has a good vocabulary, if he is talking about something that interest him or if he wants to talk! He does have a speech delay ie replaces certain sounds with similar sounding ones train is cwain for example. Language isnt a very big problem, but communication is iyswim.

He avoids talking unless it is something HE wants to talk about. Conversations are very much a one way thing with him. If you ask him a question, he will either ignore you or talk about something else that he wants to talk about. He doesnt always make sense, very random.

Perhaps PECS is not the thing for him. He just needs his basic needs covered for example every times he needs the toilet, he soils himself. At school he has spare trousers etc, but he will not ask for them and just stays like it all day. Lunch time if he cant open his drink, he will just put it back in his lunch box. If someone hits him, he wont tell a teacher etc.

I totally understand what you are saying about not being able to give SALT advice on a personal level. Apologies, got very excited finding someone who understands

claw3 Tue 06-Oct-09 22:29:17

Elmo - No one is to blame, its the system and appointment after appointment and no action or help that is frustrating.

Hopefully we will start to receive some help, seeing the same professional more than once would be nice, so i dont have to start from square one again.

Still enough of my moaning, thanks for your input, much appreciated.

linglette Wed 07-Oct-09 09:29:48

Claws - I will summarise my understanding subject to corrections by moondog - be aware that our kids sound quite different from each other so you may use these things differently to how I do.

1. Calendar. Buy an ordinary calendar (if it's slimline with days all on top of each other then I guess that would increase the visual impact but those tend to be too small and really you need one with quite big boxes). Stick it on the wall by his bed. For several weeks, just have him tick off the day until he seems to be "getting it" (you may find the numbers on the days a help or a hindrance depending on his interest in/understanding of them). Then have him start marking dates such as an upcoming birthday ("X's birthday party is on day number 10, let's draw a cake") on the calendar as many days in advance as are appropriate given his SN profile (my child loves long countdowns, others might find the idea of waiting unbearable). Then change the background colour of all non-school days so he can see at a glance whether that birthday party will fall on (i) a school day or (ii) a non-school day.
If he takes to it you can gradually increase complexity.

2. timetimer. Available at and various SN catalogues.

It's a timer - but better because you can actually see in concrete terms how much time there is left. So it renders the abstract concrete (key aim with visual learners). Moondog swears by them. Get one and put it on the wall and you will see that you instinctively look at it rather than your clock to see how much time is left before you have to go to school. Start setting it for events that are interesting but not emotionally loaded (if he sees it as the thing that makes him wait for a desired activity he may resent and reject it). Once he accepts and "gets" it, you can then start to use it as a timer for more desired/undesired events eg how much longer he has to stay at the barbers/how much longer until you will finish your dinner and play with him/how much longer he is allowed to stay on the computer.

linglette Wed 07-Oct-09 09:31:06

Oh, should add that as he struggles to recall past events then developing use of a calendar would help with that as after a month or two you could start pointing out previous events and saying "you remember when we went to grandma's?" etc, etc.

claw3 Wed 07-Oct-09 10:29:16

Thanks Linglette - i have just ordered a timetimer (bloody expensive!). He does have problems waiting for anything. I will use it as you describe, more desirable or bland things first, then build up to how long before a bath, getting dressed, which he hates etc.

I also managed to get a 2009 calender, he loves boxes, lines, ticks and counting down how many more sleeps. And it will be very helpful for 'what did you do yesterday or even earlier on in the day' he gets confused.

Thank you very much. I will have to sack Moondog now

linglette Wed 07-Oct-09 10:52:36

I wouldn't do that as I'm just parroting what moondog says smile

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