“Just use your words”
How often do you hear that phrase? For that matter, how often have you used that phrase?
With my neurotypical daughter, I have tried to refrain from using it. And that’s not because I don’t want to remind her of her expansive vocabulary. But, it’s mostly because I never really had to use it before.
Except I did.. just not in the typical way that most people think.
When we say “use your words” to our children, we are really asking for them to communicate with us, right? But for autistic children like my daughter, they may not always have the expressive vocabulary. We want our children to have a voice and to use that voice. As parents of autistic children, we just want our children to have a voice.
How PECS gives your autistic child the gift of communication
Children aren’t born with the ability to process their emotions, wants, or needs. We can’t expect them to be able to clearly communicate when they’re first born. And as parents, it is part of what we do to help them cope, help them communicate and to help them be heard.
This can be challenging enough for a neurotypical child.
But, when you add in the additional processing difficulties that autistic children face? Autistic children struggle, not only with processing and expressing emotions; but language in general.
Or they may not have the ability to verbally express their needs, wants, and emotions with spoken words.
PECS can change that.
For our family, we started with American Sign Language but it was my daughter’s first speech therapist who introduced us to the concept of PECS.
If you aren’t already familiar with PECS, it stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. The concept is actually pretty simple.
- The child is introduced to the pictures or icons of desired objects
- They are then shown that these pictures can be exchanged for the actual item
This takes a lot of work and a lot of consistency, but over time? PECS truly does become the foundation of a language system.
Empower your autistic child so they can use their words
PECS is just one option when it comes to providing a functional communication system.
Does it work for all autistic children?
For some, they cannot get past the visual representations because they don’t look realistic enough. For others, the system becomes too simple and not complex enough to meet their needs.
For others, PECS is best used in combination with something else. My daughter, for example, thrived with PECS at school. The traditional Boardmaker style was what she was used to. However, because she is so compartmentalized; we had to use something else at home.
We fashioned together our own system with purchased clipart and sign language.
And it works for us.
That was the key for our family and that will be the key for your family.
No matter what components you use in this communication system, find something that works for you and your family. Experiment and don’t think that you have to settle on something just because everyone else is using it.
This is not a one-size-fits-all mentality. This is a whatever-works-best-for-your-child mentality.