Posts Tagged ‘PECS communication’

So happy that Little Man has taken to using the PECS cards to make his thoughts known.  Most often, it is to ask for something.  I also use them to give him the opportunity to make choices.

One area that needs a lot of work though is for me to make new good cards.  Unless away from home, we eat a diet that is mostly vegan foods.  Sadly, there are many ethnic foods, in example, which there are no PECS cards for.  I am now taking pictures to make my own cards.

To make the cards, I first take pictures to upload to my computer. I open up my word processing program and make a grid 4 squares across by 5 does down.  This yields 20 catds per page. The squares are 2″x 2″in size. 

I then insert and size to fit a picture in each square.  I leave enough room so rhat i can label each picture.

The page is printed onto cardstock. The squares are cut out. I then place the cards on a lamination pouch, spacing them evenly.  Upon laminating, I cut out each square along with a sliver of laminate border in place.

Once cut, I place either the rough side of hook and loop tape on the back of each square.  These are then stored in trading card sheet protectors, organized by category.

Another option is to use the magnet tape.  I use the magnet tape for routine cards. 

I keep a small binder that held half sized pages that were laminated and had strips of the fuzzy side of Velcro attached.  I have cards that I made to represent pictures of bariou food menu items.  When we go out to eat, I have a ready supply of cards for each restaurant. Little Man then is able to choose the meal he wants.

On our wall, I have a magnetic message board.  I have a second set of cards with his favorite foods and snacks. I place onto the message board the food choices that he has for the day.  I also have a “change diaper” card on the board.  A piece of the magnet tape is all that is needed to keep them in place on the board.

Now, as I am ready to serve a meal, I take a picture of the meal. As soon as I have enough to full a sheet, I make the cards. Little Man is able to make choices and is happier during mealtimes. 


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After checking online for websites to make Pookie his own communication book, I stumbled upon a resource worth looking closely at. Melissa Toth, of “The Autism Adventures of Classroom 83”, designed a PECS Communication book starter set. This book, designed for students in her classroom, contains 27 pages and over 500 PECS picture cards. The book pages are tabbed to make locating each topic easier. Ms. Toth sells the book through her store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

This book is a 94 page PDF download of just over 55 MB in size.  Quite a hefty sized file for the price!  The download includes 2 versions of the same communication book.  The first version is a book with pages containing the pictures.  This version is perfect for those who cannot use the PECS picture cards yet due to fine motor delays or maybe a child who easily loses picture cards.  The second version has blank pages with the picture placement areas designated with borders.  The pictures cards are printed separately to be laminated and placed into the book using self-adhesive hook and loop tape.

For Pookie, I am choosing to print out one of each versions.  He will mainly use the one with removable picture cards.  The second will be a “back-up” book to have on hand when away from home.  This will help to eliminate the chance of cards being lost along the way.  Having the book without removable cards with us on field trips, such as our frequent trips to the zoo, will make life easier for all of us.

One option that Ms. Toth gives is that of having her customize the front cover for your child.  Upon request through email, she will add your child’s name and picture to the front cover.  Once done. she will email the cover to you for printing.  I contacted her with the picture and information already.  Within a few hours, I had a reply.  She asks for a couple of days to customize the cover, which is just fine by me.

When I spoke with Pookie’s speech therapist, she was excited about this book. It is one that she will be able to recommend for her other client families. At a price of $7.50, the cost of the book is very low considering the quality of the product you are receiving. It is not uncommon to find communication books for sale at a price over $50. To be able to purchase the PDF of the book makes it much easier later on to replace cards or pages that become lost or damaged from use.

What really makes this book special is that it is a great launching point for those new to using a picture communication system.  Often, it is easy to know what items to have pictures for.  The problem and confusion for parents however come in knowing what conversational cards you need as well as those that are useful for school and outings.  This book takes care of that for you.   Being homeschoolers, there are a few picture cards in the book that are not applicable to our lifestyle and homeschooling.  This brings up another reason why the version with removable cards can be a benefit.  You can simply leave out of the book any cards that are not needed.  Once you know the size of the cards, you can easily draw a graph of squares in that size on a word processing document.  Next, add into each square a picture that you may need.  One such example is the “people” page.  Instead of using the PECS style picture symbols to represent people that Pookie comes in contact with on a regular basis, I can add actual pictures of them.

Once printed out, the book pages will be heat laminated and cut out.  The book is set up with the spiral binding along the top edge.  If I find that we need extra pages, such as a page for religious activities, I will simply print out an extra blank page and make a tab in the correct spot.  A small sticker, such as a cross for a religious page, will provide the reference needed on the tab.

For the version with pictures printed on the book pages, you need only print the pages, heat laminate, cut out the pages, and bind.  This is as close to instant gratification that you can get!  If using the version with removable cards, you print the book pages and picture cards out, heat laminate everything, cut out, bind the book, then use hook and loop tape to add the pages to the book.  The sheets of picture cards are organized by the book page.

Here is a list of the categories that you will find in the communication book.

• Title page
• Yes/No
• All About Me
• I want ___
• I feel ___
• I want to play ___
• Let’s Chat
• People
• Describe
• Recess
• Questions
• Verbs
• Days
• Months
• Weather
• Art Time
• Lowercase Alphabet
• Uppercase Alphabet
• Numbers
• Hygiene
• Home things
• School things
• Food
• Breakfast
• Lunch
• Dinner
• Snacks

I highly recommend checking into this resource for a communication book.  Of all the options available online, this one is by far the most economical.  I have found online the binder style PECS books with about 150 picture cards and 6 pages to place into the binder priced at $ 103.00.  On websites such as Etsy, you can find books ranging from $45 and up.  The $45 books contain 80 PECS symbols.  These are a far cry from the over 500 PECS cards you get with the book download that I ordered.

I am so grateful to have found this resource.  I love the fact that with it being a download, I can print out extra sheets as needed to replace any that become worn or cards that may be lost.  This was a big selling point for me.  Unlike custom made books, like those sold online, I won’t have to buy anything extra to replace the cards, pages, or even the entire book should it become worn, lost, or damaged.

Check out the links above and see for yourself.  It is definitely worth a look for anyone needing a communication book.

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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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I have been working on a storage binder for Pookie’s collection of PECS communication cards. What a task! It is amazing the sheer number of cards that you can come up with. When I first began looking for graphics for his cards, I struggled to come up with things that would be needed. Now, after watching how they are used in his therapy sessions, I am getting a lot more ideas on what cards to have done up.

My favorite “go to” website for making his cards is still the SEN Teacher website. On SEN Teacher, you can go to the printables area and find the option for making your own PECS cards. They give options for sizes, with or without borders, and the choice of using their search engine for graphics or uploading your own.

Making the Binder:

You will need a 3-ring binder (I used a half sized one for this project)
Cardstock, for the pages
Heat laminate
Adhesive-backed hook and loop tape*
Hole punch

*Note: for clarification purposes, Loop tape is the soft fuzzy portion. Hook tape is the rough portion.

Step 1: Turn your binder so that the hinge side is facing away from you. I wanted the book to be a flip-book that has pages that flip upwards. Cut 3 strips of loop tape to length so that it fits parallel to the hinge edge. Adhere the strips evenly to form 3 rows. (Later, you will be able to use these rows as a visual schedule or a choice board.



Step 2: Using heat laminate, laminate the cardstock pages. If using a half-size binder, cut the pages in half to fit. Be sure to not use contact paper or a cold laminate for this step. The adhesive on the hook and loop tape does not stay adhered to cold laminate. It only works well on heat laminated items. Hole punch the pages to fit into the binder.


Step 3: Adhere 2 rows (up to 4 rows if using a full sized 8.5×11 inch binder page) loop tape onto each page. If desired, you can add the loop tape rows to both sides of each page.

Step 4: Place pages in to your binder and Voila’ you are done.

PECS cards: I went to the SEN Teacher website and made the cards we needed to start with. The therapists offered to print them for me and heat laminate them. So, I saved the cards to my computer and emailed the files to them. At Pookie’s next appointment, they were already printed and laminated for us. All I had to do was trim the cards out and adhere a piece of the hook tape to the back of each card.

To use the binder, I first organized the PECS cards by category. I arranged each category on its own page in the binder. Most frequently used categories are towards the front of the binder.


When I am setting up Pookie’s visual schedule, I place the cards onto the front cover of the binder starting with the top row and going from left to right. We start by choosing what activities he will do and in what order. I generally will set a limit of about 5 activities as a time. I place the cards in the order chosen onto the binder cover. If at home, I have a container sitting beside the binder. As he chooses each activity, the card is placed into the container. If we use the binder away from home, a blank page in the front of the binder can serve as a storage place for the cards instead of the container.

After we have completed the session, I place the cards back onto their pages. This makes it easy to find them again next time.

One idea that I haven’t done for this binder, but plan to do next time is to print out an extra copy of the PECS cards. The second set can then be used to make an index for the cards. This way, if a card should be lost, I will know which one needs to be replaced. It will also help later on when Pookie is old enough and used to using the binder enough to put the cards away himself.

In making the binder, I was surprised at how fast I ran out of the loop tape. I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. We had just opened up a new 15′ long roll of the hook and loop tape for this project. By the time I placed the rows on the cover and on about 8 pages, the loop tape was gone. I now have 15′ of hook tape left over but I know that will be gone quick enough once I get more cards printed up. I stopped using the hook and loop “coins” for the PECS cards. In the long run, it is far less expensive to by the long strips and cut them to size. The cheapest resource that I have found for them locally is the Lowes store. The hook and loop tape comes in 15′ rolls.

As I finished this little binder, I am already making plans to do a regular sized binder. That one will be at least 2 inches thick to allow room to grow. I simply filled up the 1″ binder way too quickly. Once I have the larger one made, I will relegate the half size binder to be Pookie’s working binder. It will only contain the cards he uses most often. Some of the pages in his working binder could be outing-specific. For example, cards for going to the Zoo so that he can let me know what animals he wants to see the most. Maybe pictures of his favorite foods sold at the zoo, funnel cake, nachos, and seasoned fries are his favorites. It would give him the ability to choose what he wants to eat. We could do the same for other restaurants or fast food locations. The key idea is to give him the communications skills he needs to make independent decisions for himself.

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PECS Update

Lately, I have been working on more PECS cards for Pookie.  We are blessed to have the resource of the therapy center to have the cards printed and laminated.  This saves me much time and expense.  Pookie’s OT, Miss Amanda, offered to find PECS cards for him but I wanted to save her the extra work.  So, I went to my favorite “go to” resource online to design the cards.  If you haven’t checked out SEN Teacher yet, it is amazing!  Look under the Printables tab and you will find AAC Printables.  This is where you can make your own PECS cards or visual schedule cards for free.

For Pookie, I am making the cards in a size 2, which gives me 12 cards per sheet.  You have the option of using your own photos, doing a search for photos, or using AAC images.  I like using a little of each.  I have some cards now that I made by using the search terms “sign language (fill in the word needed)” to express abstract or conceptual needs.  For example, I wanted to have a PECS card for “I want” to help Pookie make a phrase of sentence.  In doing a Google search for “sign language want” I found the following picture.


After being printed, the “I” was written in to make the card say “I want” before the card was laminated.

Something that we are beginning to do with Pookie is to have him point to the cards instead of trying to make him hand them to us.  Pookie doesn’t do hand to hand exchanges.  So, we are adapting to allow him to still communicate but in a way in which he is comfortable doing.  It is really no different than if a communication device was used.

I have a small 3-ring binder that holds paper 5.5 x 8.5 inches in size.  On the front cover, I placed rows of self-adhesive Velcro.  Inside, I am placing half-sheets of heavy cardstock that is also heat laminated.  These become the storage pages for the PECS cards that can be indexed by type.

One idea that I saw at the therapy center was a painted stick that is used to place PECS cards onto as a visual schedule.  I have always loved that idea.  I had considered using a wooden ruler but am going to use a paint stir stick instead.  These sticks are very inexpensive.  Sometimes, I store will just give them to you if you ask. I can easily drill a hole into the handle end to place a hanging loop onto.  Once completely dry, the adhesive Velcro can be added to one side.  Another option is to buy a PECS Sentence Strip from Amazon for about $5.00.


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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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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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