Friday, March 19, 2010


Once again its been awhile since I've written, and as always, its because there are just more things to do around here than there is time in a day. Nora and her Brownie troop are keeping me busy, my new online class and its 15 students are keeping me busy, and of course Emily's therapy is keeping both Emily and I busy.

In the last two weeks, Emily and I have started using a tool called PECS both in Speech Therapy and at home. PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. It was developed as a means for autistic children to communicate their wants and needs by handing pictures of different items to an adult or other caregiver. A side effect of using this system is that many children start to learn the words associated with the pictures, thus leading to verbal communication. Since Emily is a visual learner, we are hoping that by using PECS we will be able to cut down on the tantrums associated with her lack of verbal skills, as well as teach her some important vocabulary.

At first, as mentioned in a prior posts, Emily was not very keen on using this system. She has been pointing and grunting at the things she wants for over a year, and she didn't want to change her routine. When learning the system in Ms. Shelly's office, she had several major meltdowns, and I suffered the loss of a tuft of hair that she yanked out of my head. When I introduced the pictures at home, the look she gave me was one of pure disgust. She hated the PECS book, and she kept throwing it and its pictures right back at me.

Of course I probably should have watched the DVD video explaining PECS before trying to use it. After Ryan and I watched the show, I realized I was approaching the whole thing wrong. I needed a secret weapon: Root Beer. So the root beer picture went into the book. Then I showed Emily that if she handed the picture of root beer to me, she would get her tiny mug filled to the brim with brown foamy goodness. It only took her about 20 minutes to figure out the whole system. Now she is able to "tell" me what she wants to eat when she's hungry and what toy she wants to play with simply by handing me a card. I love PECS. She has learned several new words including book, root beer, raisins, animal crackers, and fish (for gold fish).

This has lead to a new set of issues, however. Now that Emily has a means of expressing her wants, she thinks she will automatically get them. I'd tell her "no" or "all done", and then I'd put the picture back in the book. The problem was that she would retrieve the picture, and hand it to Nora or the dog! Of course I had a good belly laugh when I realized she was trying to get root beer from Lacey, but then Em got angry when the dog didn't deliver. I've taken to hiding the PECS pictures of things she can't have too much of, like fruit snacks. She doesn't take no for an answer. I am thinking we need an "all done" bin to get the idea across that the PECS book isn't her personal all you can eat buffet. Until then, I suppose she can keep asking the dog for a snack, and who knows? Maybe Lacey will help her out after all.


  1. Hey girlie have you checked Temple Grandin? she is this Colorado State U. Prof who is autistic but she has written several books on visual learners because she herself saw the whole world in pictures. It might be worth checking out. She's brilliant and profoundly autistic. She designs slaughter houses and is all for the ethical slaughter of cows (if there's such a thing). Anyway, keep posting. Hope all's well.
    Lots of good thoughts your way! My best to the girls and Ryan.

  2. Carolina,

    I started looking in Temple Grandin on your advice. As someone that does think in language, it was fascinating to learn that some, no many, people think in pictures. Emily must be one of those people. I'm going to continue to do a little research on this, talk to her speech therapist, and go from there. Thanks for the info!