Picture Exchange Communication System Hi-tech vs. Low-tech

I originally posted this on my own blog six months ago. I’ve gotten such a great response online and have had people asking me about our low-tech PECS so often that I thought I would post here as well.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is something we’ve been working on with Chewy. Since he’s non-verbal and has motor coordination issues, he cannot sign properly. He has plenty of signs that he uses, over 40 in fact, but they aren’t all the standard ASL or baby signing type signs. He often ends up making up his own due to his dyspraxia.
There are many options, both Hi-Tech and Low. We have an iPad and iTouch for Chewy, but most of the apps geared for non-communicative kids are still a bit above what he can do. Enter our super low tech device.

The Folder.

I know, super fancy right?! But hey, it works for us.

We took pictures (along with our therapist) of all his foods, toys he loves and other day-to-day things and then had them laminated. We put some good old fashioned “hook and loop tape” [Velcro to the rest of the world] on the backs. We put the soft fuzzy side on the backs of the pictures and then put strips of the scratchy side on the folder. When the folder is closed, there is one empty strip showing so you can put what you want your child to choose from there.

At first this was overwhelming to Chewy. He just wanted to rip those pictures off and toss them, or point to each one and have us repeat back to him what it was. Over and over and over and over again. We’ve been trying really hard to stay consistent with the PECS folder but it’s a big change to go from guessing what his grunts and random signs were to giving him the folder, guessing what he wants, showing him the picture, making him take off the picture and then hand it to us. After all that we take the picture and the actual item and bring it to our face and say the word before he gets what he asked for. I won’t lie, not my favorite thing to do because it’s so time consuming when all he wants is a cookie and I know it. I need to remind myself daily that this will help. That he’ll catch on and in the future this will help him at school.

The big blue folder we have isn’t great for when we go out and about on our errands though. Certainly can get confusing and cumbersome when we go out to dinner as well. So, super OCD mom (me!) had to make a 2nd PECS folder. This is half the size of the first. I have it fold up small so it fits in my purse. Inside we just keep common “safe” foods for him that most restaurants have and a fruit bar that I almost always have on hand. I also put a picture of a cup for him to tell us when he’s thirsty, a diaper and binky in case he needs those and a picture of our car and his carseat in case he is overwhelmed and tells us he just wants to go home.

This is good to show him what will happen when we go out too. First we eat, then we go to the car. I’m hoping this will make going out to dinner a much more pleasant experience!

Do you use the PECS system? If so, is yours Hi-tech or low?

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