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One of the biggest challenges for special needs families is expanding and improving their child’s communication skills. Before having a child with communication challenges, most people are unaware of how difficult even a simple conversation can be because most of us develop those skills naturally when we are toddlers.
For those who have a child with Special needs we don’t take much for granted because our child has to work extra hard to reach milestones that come naturally to most. There are some who eventually learn how to speak after years of Speech therapy and constant work. Then there are some who never do gain the ability to speak. So we must find ways to help our children communicate their wants and more importantly their needs.
For the last three years we have worked on multiple means of communication with Sawyer. We started out with a PECS (picture exchange system) binder that I put together using printable pictures a previous Occupational therapist passed along to me that can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers Here!
We soon realized that Sawyer still had issues with understanding what was expected of him and how to use the pecs binder so we decided to put it away and find other means of communicating. Our next choice was sign language. We started with some basics and it has taken a year but we now have (eat, more, please, thank you, all done & go) down. These are great gains, however; we noticed that Sawyer’s receptive language was progressing faster than his expressive language and this left him as well as us frustrated because he still couldn’t express his wants and needs with out yelling and screaming. To say we were feeling defeated is an understatement as we are always playing detective and that can be exhausting. We always have to use the “rule-out everything” method to figure out what it is that Sawyer is trying to tell us.
So recently when his teachers and therapist expressed that PECS was working at school and during his outside therapy sessions we decided it was time to reintroduce PECS at home but needed to make some changes to our original set up. So I downgraded to a smaller binder, something more portable and accessible which you can find Here. I also needed new durable dividers (a place to layout the pictures) within the binder and you can find those Here. You will of course need a means to attach the pictures and Velcro is the best option. You could use Velcro dots found Here or strips of Velcro found Here. I then started to take the pictures we currently had and replace them with more personal able pictures. Ones that Sawyer could easily relate to. I’ve been taking pictures of his toys, favorite foods and items within and outside of our home that are a part of his daily routines. This has helped tremendously! He’s starting to grab the binder and with our help TELL US what he wants (part of it is intuition-we’ve had to learn how to anticipate his wants and needs) and the rest is all Sawyer learning a new way of expressing his thoughts, wants and needs!
Progress is always our main goal never perfection. His goals and life skills are attainable with the right tools in place and we’re getting there.
IF you are reading this still and have been hesitant to set up a pecs binder for your child, reach out to me on Instagram @sawyeronthespectrum or send me an email! I’d be glad to walk you through it in more detail. It’s worth it!