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Archive for June, 2014

One of the most rewarding things that I have done with Pookie is use PECS communication cards with him. When I first began, it was during a time when he was not receiving speech therapy. Long story there, but it took us a while to find one who knew how to work with a child with his severity of autism.

In doing a search online (got to love the Internet) I found the step by step instructions from a college which tells you exactly how to implement PECS with your child. The outline was designed for a college course handout, I believe, but I was thrilled to find it available for download here.

I next did an online search for free printable PECS cards that I could start out with. Why re-invent the wheel, right? I found many that I could use, but I just couldn’t seem to find exactly what I needed. Then, I found SENTeacher.org where I could design my own cards using their graphics search engine or uploading my own graphics, I loved using their site when I had time at a Wi-Fi location. Problem is, I live in a rural area with only a prepay MiFi device for Internet service and its signal is sketchy at times. This required me to find another way to do the cards offline.

I opened up my Open Office program and made a template of a graph that is 5 columns across and 6 rows down. This gave me 30 squares that are about 1.5 inches in size. I saved this template so that I wouldn’t have to rebuild it each time.

Next, I started making a list of the pictures that I needed the most. I can always add new ones later. I mainly wanted the ones that were needed at that time. Some examples were daily routine pictures, chores, favorite snacks, his sports bottle that he always drinks from, and favorite toys and activities. I organized the PECS graphics on the template by category. This will help out later on when you are filing the cards away for storage.

I went back to the template and gave the template a category name at the top of the page. Then, I copied each of the graphics for that category onto the template. At this point, you can add word labels to the graphics if you want. I chose not to when making Pookie’s cards.

Once the template is complete, I saved it both in PDF and in Open Office’s document formats. The PDF makes it easier to print at the office supply store. Yet I still have the document file so that I can easily edit it later on.

I print out 2 copies of the PECS cards. Both copies are heat laminated. One copy is cut apart to make the cards and the other is an indexing sheet. When I am storing the cards in the main PECS binder, I am storing the cards on their indexing sheet. This method allows me to see at a glance what cards, if any, are missing.

When making the cards, one thing to consider is whether or not ot print them on paper or cardstock. It is really a personal preference. If heat laminated, the ones printed on paper work very well if only used with one child. If you are making them for several children to share, such as in a classroom setting, then cardstock may be a more durable option.

Some people may want to consider printing and laminating an extra sheet of the cards to store away in a file folder. These will give you a ready supply of replacement cards in case cards are lost or damaged. If you don’t have ready access to a printer or a heat laminating machine, this may be a good option to consider. It will save time and frustration later on.

Some tips I have learned about making PECS cards:

Know your child! Some kids do well with the simple line drawing style of cards while others do better with picture graphics.

Never use contact paper or the self-stick type lamination that does not require heating. The adhesive on the Velcro or magnet tape does not adhere well to it and will pop off rather quickly. Always heat laminate. Once the adhesive on the Velcro or magnetic tape adheres to the heat laminated cards, it is very difficult to remove.

Keep a note card handy for jotting down items that you find yourself needing a card for. Many times, I have been sure that I would remember what I needed to make cards for, only to find my mind going blank when I tried to recall the items later on.

Be prepared to tweak the system. The storage methods that work for some, may not work for another. It takes time to get into the rhythm on how the PECS works best in your family.

Don’t be afraid to try various methods for using the cards. These are a tool and not meant to be used in a rigid fashion. Some children do well with handing the cards to you, while others simply point to the card. When used in visual schedules, some kids are good at removing the card and placing it into a “finished” pocket or basket, while others may do well simply moving the card to a different position on the chart.

Do a search on Pinterest for PECS communication and visual schedules. You will find a huge array of ideas and options available. Just as working with autistic children is not a “one size fits all” undertaking, neither is the way PECS communication and visual schedules use in the home. What works for one child may not work for another. Again, this is a situation of learning what your child prefers.

Go slow. There is no need to expect a child to grasp the full program of using PECS communication in a short period of time. It takes a while to get through all the steps. Some children may take more time than others. It isn’t a race or a competition. Just go at a pace that your child can respond best with, while still challenging them. Remember that the foundation laid in each step needs to be fully build before adding the next phase.

Stay positive! Yes, there will be times of frustration as you go through the process of teaching PECS communication to your child. This is the same with or without a therapist using the PECS communication system with your child. You will have times when it just doesn’t click. Take heart! The rewards at the end will far outweigh any frustration that you and your child may feel along the way.

Teaching Pookie to communicate has been both a challenge and a great blessing. With each step forward, he has fewer and fewer meltdowns. With him, most meltdowns have always taken place due to frustration. Once he began to learn that he could make choices or make his desires known, the meltdowns have subsided. Now, the only true meltdowns that he has are those involving sensory overload or other sensory based issue such as his problems with transitioning from surfaces or doing something new.

It has been a journey, and we are still progressing through the steps with learning to use PECS communication. The progress is slow. Mostly because I am doing this on my own right now. But the benefits are already being seen.

Good luck on your own journey with PECS communication! I hope that the ideas shared on my blog will inspire new ways to use the same ideas with your own children.

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When people learn that I homeschool both of our children, I am often asked how I juggle teaching both a typical and a special needs child.  The thought being that a typical child doesn’t receive as much one-on-one time.  How do you give ample instruction to your typical child, while still meeting the needs of your special needs child?  Here is what we have done successfully thus far.

One of the greatest blessings for us was to implement the workbox system.  We had always planned to homeschool both children.  Once we learned that Pookie has Infantile Autism, I knew that we would have to find a way to make homeschooling work for both children.  It was about this time that I stumbled upon blog posts about Sue Patrick’s Workbox System and her book.  I purchased the book and have found it to be the best option for our family.

I didn’t wait until Little Miss was officially doing homeschool to get her started in learning to use workboxes.  We used them for her preschool activities.  In starting early, the workbox system has been all she has known.  As a family, we find the system to be far more organized than anything else I ever tried with my now adult children whom I homeschooled years ago.  The system teaches independent working skills and even time management.  By having her use the system with preschool, she was learning early to go from one activity to the next without needing prompting.  She still needed some instruction in how to do some of her work, but overall she was able to go from one activity to the next without me having to tell her.  It helped that she had the visual schedule chart. She knew that when her tags were all gone from her schedule strip, that she was all done for the day.

Today, both Little Miss and Pookie have their own schedule strips and workboxes.  As I plan out the assignment schedules, I take into account what lessons Little Miss will need the most one-on-one time with.  I make out my schedule so that I have Little Miss’ lessons that require the most of my time to coincide with activities for Pookie that he can do on his own.  Likewise, I do the one-on-one activities with Pookie when Little Miss has assignments that she can do independently.  The following is an example of how this works.

Little Miss is able to do all reading assignments, notebooking, art, and some math completely independent other than brief instruction from me.  While she does these assignments, I am working with Pookie on those activities that need the most of my help. During the times when Pookie is playing with his puzzles, sensory bin, play dough, or other things that he is very familiar with, I am able to give more one-on-one to Little Miss.  If necessary, I will let Pookie have a break to play with his tablet while I give more time to Little Miss.   By working their schedule this way, both are given the one-on-one instruction they need without the other child missing out.

I have found early on that it is far easier to teach Little Miss to work independently than it is to teach Pookie to do so.  Simply because of the nature of his Infantile Autism, he will always require more aid than Little Miss.  Yes, he will gradually be able to develop independent skills, but it will take him much longer.  Whenever possible, we do activities that they can do together.  Little Miss loves to paint and do crafts as much as Pookie does. So, when one of them has an arts & crafts activity to do, they both sit at the table and work on projects.  Another favorite combined activity are science projects.  When a science experiment is planned, I schedule it so that both kids are able to take part at the same time.

A simple help to implement is to start your typical child on their school day a few minutes prior to your special needs child.  Before I go through the Morning Calendar with Pookie, I can spend about 10-15 minutes with Little Miss going over her schedule for the day.  This gives her a good start to her day as well.

One aspect of the workbox system that is a huge benefit for us is the “work with Mom” cards.  I place a “work with Mom” card in the drawer on top of any assignment that I know will need a few minutes of one-on-one instruction.  If Little Miss reaches one of those and I am busy with Pookie, she skips over that activity and goes on to the next.  When I am done working with Pookie, we go back to the skipped activity.  By doing this, she is able to continue working through her assignments and is not sitting idle waiting for me.  It makes her day go much more smoothly.

I hope this explanation helps to answer some of the questions that I have been getting.  If not, feel free to ask if you have more questions.

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