Archive for August, 2013

Over the couple of weeks, I have been going to the SEN Teacher website to make PECS cards for Pookie.  This website is such a blessing!  When you go to their home page, run you cursor over the “Print” tab then click on “AAC Printables” from the drop down menu.  On this page, you can customize PECS cards in the photo format or the familiar line drawings format.  They give you many options for borders as well as fonts and card sizes.

Back when Pookie was first diagnosed with Infantile Autism (aka Autism Disorder, Classic Autism), the specialists recommended that he be taught to use PECS.  They included the instruction however that he would have to be taught to interact with someone first.  He was in his own world back then and did not interact unless he was hungry.  When hungry or thirsty, he would fuss until you figured it out, then he would gladly accept your feeding him or holding his bottle.

We began Early Intervention about 1 week after his autism assessment evaluation.  It had been a long 10 month wait for it to start.  I had contacted their office in mid-September of the previous year on 3 occasions only to have his case slip through the cracks.  Finally, after his evaluation, I called one of the resources we were given the information for.  They were able to put in a call to the state level and his Early Intervention was started immediately.

One of the communication topics that came up was PECS in our first meeting.  I was interested but hesitant.  They never spoke of working with him to get the level of interactive behavior necessary to make PECS successful.  I had my reservations at that point.  The speech therapist that came out to our home played with him but did not actively work with him to try and develop his speech.  He was making a few letter sounds and could say “Da-da” or say “Ee-ee” for the word eat.  My expectation was that she would build on the sounds he could make. But it didn’t happen.

A child development specialist came to the home in place of an occupational therapist or physical therapist. She spoke more to me about PECS, but again the groundwork wasn’t being laid down.  She took pictures of Pookie’s favorite toys, sippy cup, peanut butter jar, and yogurt container.  When she returned the following week, she brought the pictures.  They were 5×7 inches in size and laminated.  Her instruction was simply to have him bring you the picture for what he wants.  No instructions on how to train him to do that.  Again, I felt lost.

Fast forward 3 years to today.  I have been feeling the need for PECS to be used again.  Problem was, I still had no instruction in how to implement it.  I started searching on YouTube for videos that demonstrated the PECS communication system in use.  I was amazed at how many there are.  Some when step by step, with one video dedicated to each of the 6 phases of training.  Finding the SEN Teachers website where I could print out cards was an additional blessing.  I made the cards using graphics that I had for his homeschool subjects as well as pictures of his fine motor activities.  Next, I made a sheet of them with his sports bottle and favorite foods.  The last sheet was a few of his favorite toys and graphics for his “Tokens” to use on his “I am working for” incentive chart.

I didn’t have access to a laminator right away so printed the picture cards out on cardstock and added the self-adhesive hook (rough portion of the hook and loop) onto the backs of the cards.  I bought a small 3-ring binder that holds half-sheet size pages.  On the outside cover, I placed 3 rows of the fuzzy portion of the hook and loop dots.  Inside of the binder, I will be placing laminated half sheets of cardstock to use for storing his cards.  One note that I wanted to mention. Many website that tell how to make these binders or visual schedules instruct to place the rough portion onto the outside of the binder or the visual schedule and use the soft portion on the backs of the cards.  I disagree.  If we accidently brush our hand (or arm if on a wall mounted visual schedule) against the binder, I would much rather feel the soft portion than the rough.  It is totally a personal preference however.

For my own purposes, I have an extra sheet of each set of cards printed out onto paper with a sheet of plain cardstock behind it in sheet protectors.  These are my indexing sheets that I keep in my own file.  I keep all of his cards in my file at this point.  Having an indexing sheet allows me to know which card is missing.  Later when he is keeping his cards in his binder, I will have only the indexing sheets for the purpose of replacing a lost card.

When he gets a PECS system from his speech therapist, this small one will be used at his Grandparents’ home when he is there for the day.  I will be making up a set of cards specific to the foods she provides for him as well as any other cards she may want him to have.  A second small travel PECS book will be used in his Sunday School class with cards in it that his teacher requests.

Teaching Pookie to use the cards has been less stressful than I thought it might be.  He is old enough to catch on fairly well.  I began with his favorite sweet, Skittles.  Those are a real treat for him as I do not allow the kids to have candy very often.  I placed a card for the Skittles and one for a favorite game onto his binder.  When asked what he wanted, he gestured for the Skittles.  I then pointed to the card and asked him to hand it to me.  He fussed at first, but quickly complied.  Once I had the card, I praised him for it and gave him 2-3 Skittles.  As he ate them, I replaced the card.  Some of the time, I would switch the card positions so that he was not just giving me the card in the right hand side, but had to actually find the right card.   We worked at it for 20 minutes and by the time we were done, he was using the card completely on his own.

I am keeping it simple right now.  Preparing to start up with a new therapy center, I want to wait until I have a chance to speak with the speech therapist there before moving too far forward.  I don’t want to do anything that might make she job more difficult, such as inadvertently skipping a step in the training process.

It has been great though.  He has asked for peanut butter on a bagel for lunch one day using his cards.  You can see that he grasps the concept at least on this level.  It is such a leap forward for him.  I cannot wait to see how he progresses as he finds his voice through the PECS communication.

My husband made a video of Pookie using the PECS cards.  Unfortunately, that particular digital camera does not record sound.  You can watch however and get an idea of what we were doing.  We will be making more videos using my phone so that we can record the sound as well.  If interested in watching the video, you can find it on YouTube.

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One of the most familiar Bible passages that you hear homeschool families say is Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)  Another passage that we should consider is Deuteronomy 11:19 which in speaking of our Faith and spiritual teachings says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

For the homeschooling family, these words take on a new perspective. We see teaching moments throughout our day. As most parents already know, not all teaching comes from books. We share our knowledge and experiences with our children to instruct them.

Having a special needs child, I constantly see opportunities to not only teach but to do activities than provide physical or occupational therapies in the home environment.

Two weeks ago, we were homeschooling in the same manner as the previous year. It resembled a school at home atmosphere. Yes, the children learned but things are evolving this week. Soon, Pookie will be going to a new therapy center where he will receive PT, OT, and Speech therapies. The center is about 80 miles from our home. To do this, I am having to adjust our homeschool schedule. It means that we will be losing one day a week of instruction – or does it?

Last week, I tried something new. Pookie has a real struggle in doing schoolwork for more than 20 minutes at a time. By the last activity, he is very vocal, making crying sounds though not really crying. It his version of whining. He had had enough and was complaining in the only way he knew. He needs his boundaries stretched, to learn to do things he doesn’t want to do. Not many kids are eager to do schoolwork. He is no different. Yet, he does fuss if he does no schoolwork a that is now routine for him. By breaking up his day into smaller time segments he will manage the work better.

Little Miss is doing a heavier amount of notebooking this term. She is not a fast writer, so the assignments take her longer to complete. I looked over the lesson plan for the curriculum she is using and made a decision. We homeschool year round. I can easily stretch the assignments to lighten the weekly load, yet her still complete the full curriculum. Dovetailing some assignments that can easily be done together will lighten the schedule each day as well. She will still be doing 12 subjects a week, just not 12 subjects per day.

So far Little Miss and I are both enjoying the new routine. It takes more planning on my part but is worth it. She is enjoying her lessons much more. We are able to take more time with each one. She retains more information which will benefit her overall. One of my gripes about public schools is the pace at which they move. Often kids are given information at a rate that is more difficult to absorb. When test time comes, they have not retained the information as well as they should have. The routine we are setting up will help to avoid that problem.

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Over the weekend, my husband was home for a couple of days. While home, he used my little digital camera to video Pookie and I working on his PECS communication.  It was only the 3rd day of using them. My husband picked out 5 cards; a game, Skittles candy, a bagel, peanut butter, and corn fritters. The food items are 4 of his favorites. The game is another favorite of his. My husband wanted to see if Pookie was able to handle that many cards at once.

I asked what he wanted and he handed me his choice. The most often requested was wasn’t a buyer and bagel. I would tear of a bite sized piece and put a bit of peanut butter on it. Once, he asked for peanut butter and Skittles. I put a touch of peanut butter on a Skittle candy. He ate it but never asked for it again. You can see the video art the YouTube link below. The sound is not there since my camera doesn’t record sound. I will try to her a video using my phone next time.

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This week, we began our new school term.  Little Miss is enjoying her new materials and seems quite pleased with what she is learning.  It sure was a treat for her to start out in science learning about tide pools!  We kicked off the week by stopping at the OKC Zoo on the way home from church on Sunday.  We arrived 4 hours before closing, so we went straight to their new Stingray Bay exhibit.  There, we were able to touch the stingrays as they small in their pool.   Afterwards, we went to the zoo’s tide pool exhibit to touch as experience the sea stars and other sea life that was in the replica tide pool.

It has been a shift in routine to get the kids back into the homeschool mindset.  Little Miss is having to relearn time management skills.  I set the timer for 30 minutes for each assignment, then she as to complete her work before the timer goes off.  If it is not done, then it is set aside to be finished during her free time at the end of the school day.

The hardest one to help accept the routine change has been Pookie.  Taking several weeks off for a summer break was a mistake.  He became so adjusted to being able to play all day that he was resistant to doing his schoolwork.  After a rough first day, I remembered a motivator idea I had used with him a couple of years ago.  I no longer had that token board, but came up with this idea instead.



In the above picture, you can see a half egg carton with plastic eggs in it.  I placed a gumdrop into each egg.  Pookie happens to love to eat anything like gumdrops or gummy bears.  He watched as I put them into the eggs.  In order to get a gumdrop, he had to complete an activity.  He did really well.  He would finish an assignment, hand it to me, then I would allow him to choose and egg.  I opened it for him and he enjoyed to reward.  The school day went SO much easier after we started this.  I will not always have a sweet in the eggs.  Maybe have a few cheese fish crackers or other snack.  Eventually, we will ease him into getting a small container of snacks after completing a series of assignments.


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One of the things I like least about homeschooling is keeping a lesson planner.  I accept the value of having one, but the planners that I have used just were a pain in the backside to maintain.  I am horrible about keeping them up to date.  Often, I have found that the lesson planners that you can purchase just don’t seem to fit our needs.  So, this year I am doing something totally different.

I bought a pretty pocket portfolio and 6 of the less expensive 2 pocket portfolios that do not have the metal prongs in them.  These will be my lesson planner for the school year.

To assemble the planner, I first cut the larger, pretty portfolio in half along the fold to create 2 covers.  Next, I opened up the less expensive portfolios and refolded them so that the pockets were facing outward.

The folded portfolios were stacked neatly in between the covers and spiral bound at the office supply store.

Lesson planner front cover

Lesson planner front cover


Inside lesson planner

I have organized the planner in this manner:

Inside front cover contains a calendar sheet and the attendance record form that I downloaded from New Bee homeschooler.

The second page contains a curriculum resource list showing what materials the kids will be using this term.

Next page is a weekly planning sheet that I use to record any preps that I have to do for each week.  This includes things like printing out worksheets, books to check out from the library, or any special supplies I may need to purchase.

The next 4 pages are specific to our daughter: workbox planner (which also functions as a weekly lesson planner), an 8-week lesson planner for courses she is doing that are using materials not sold by Heart of Dakota, Reading logs, and her Unit Study Planning guide that covers the entire year.

Following Little Miss’ 4 pages, I have 4 pages of the same forms for Pookie.

The last 3 pages will be used for each child’s grade sheets and field trip records.

At the end of the year, I will remove all of the papers from their pockets, add a laminated front & back cover, then have them bound to make a more permanent record of the school term.

I like this format as it will allow me to add as I go along.  If I find that I need to make changes, it will be much easier than a bound lesson planning book would have allowed.



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