Regular readers will know I am a PECS® fan. PECS® is the Picture Exchange Communication System, an alternative communication system regularly used with autistic children. If you want to find out more about PECS® then see my post all about PECS®. For those who know what it is read on and I will tell you about some products I think every PECS® user needs.
***PECS® UK (Pyramid Educational Consultants) have gifted me 1 Large Communication Book, 1 set of Inset Pages and a Communication Book Strap in exchange for my honest review. Everything else mentioned (courses etc) I have purchased myself. All opinions and words are my own***
How PECS® has helped us:
My son was 2 when our speech and language therapist introduced us to the Picture Exchange Commmunication System. It was hard to implement with my eldest but it mades so much difference having a way for him to communicate what he wants. I think at this point I still thought he would just start to speak one day.
Six months later I decided to use my son’s DLA money along with some money from grandad to go on some PECS training. We only saw our speech therapist for an hour a week, for 6 weeks a term and I knew he needed daily support. The best way to get this right was for me to learn.
PECS Level 1 training
So I attended the PECS Level 1 training in Cardiff this is a 2 day workshop that is delivered around the country. The course looked at how to implement PECS and suggestions on using PECS day to day. There was lots of professionals on the course and just me and one other parent. It was just as accessible to us and the trainers were really good at covering how to use it at home and in a classroom. This was easily the best course I have been to in relation to supporting my son. Whilst it is primarly about using PECS it did cover other strategies that have been incredibly helpful. Parents get a cheaper rate to attend so it is worth asking about the price. Attendees also get the PECS manual included which I regularly refer to even now 3 years later.
When my son was 3 and his younger brother was 1, I will happily admit I was stuggling on a daily basis. My Dad offered to pay for 1-1 Consultation with PECS. It wasn’t cheap but we were paying to work with the experts and it was really worth it. We ended up having two amazing PECS consultants work with us for a week at the PECS clinic in Brighton. This really helped me to be confident that I knew what I was doing and we were supported to move my son on to the later PECS stages. It also really helped my husband to learn how to use PECS properly as he hadn’t been on the course.
Following the 1-1 consultation PECS sent us a vey detailed report relating to our son’s communication needs and targets. This was included in his Education Health and Care Plan Needs assessment and many of the targets and needs are still in his EHCP today.
A year later we did some In-Home Support, this was where a PECS consultant came to our home and worked with me and my son. Now nearly 4 and at Pre-School I was concerned about the lack of support over the Summer Holidays so we used our DLA money for these sessions. The consultant was great and even did a session with my son’s nursery to help the staff using PECS. My yongest is now at that same nursery and since he also started to use PECS, two of the staff working with him have been on the PECS Level 1 training. It really makes a diffrence when you know what the objectives are and it’s even better when there is more than one of you that knows how it works.
My eldest now nearly 6 has two communication books, one is at school and the other at home (they are duplicates). My 3 year old does have language but it is mostly echolalic (repetative) for example he can recite The Gruffalo easily but cannot say hello or more than one word in response to other people. So we are using PECS with him to improve his functional language. Up until now I have been cheating and using my eldest son’s book for both boys. Now that my youngest is using it regularly it is time for him to have his own communication book.
Large Communication Book
The PECS Communication book is available in 3 sizes, large, small and mini. I prefer to use the large book which measures 25.5cm x 23cm. It is also available in four different colours; royal blue, light blue, red and black. It costs £18.30.
The Large Communication Book includes:
- 2 insert pages
- 1 sentence strip
- 31 hook and loop fastners
Putting your PECS book together
Thankfully it comes with assembly instuctions and is very easy to put together.
If you use PECS you will become very familar with Velcro or Hook and Loop fastners (same thing just diffrent brand names). The hook side is the rough pointy side, this goes onto the book. The loop side (soft) goes onto the back of the sentence strip and any PECS cards so that it will stick to the book. See below the hook is on the left and loop on the right.
The Communication Book comes with the strips already cut to size. You need to use the longer strips (175mm) on the book and the shorter strips (140mm) on the insert pages.
I would line up your strips before attaching them, You want them to be even and have enough space for the cards. Don’t worry about being perfect when attaching the strips as they won’t be visible under all the cards, you just need to make sure they are equally spaced so the cards won’t overlap.
You apply the longer strips to the front of the binder then inside. Next apply the shorted strips to the insert pages.
Adding the sentence strip
Now you need to add one of the hook strips to the bottom of the book horizontally, see below. This is for the sentance strip.
You need to add a strip of loop fastner to the bottom of the sentence strip so it attaches to the book. You will then need to add a strip of hook fastner to the front of the sentence strips so the PECS cards can be attached.
Communication Book Strap
You can also purchase a Communication Book Strap for £4.80, these come in four different colours. There are hooks already attached to the Communication Book to attach the strap.
At my eldest son’s school classroom and my youngest’s nursery they have pegs for my kids to hang up their PECS book. This means the book is always accessible to them and has a home so everyone knows where it is. The strap is particularly helpful when carrying the book around when we are out and about. My eldest loves carrying his over his shoulder, it is also a nice size so it is just as comfortable when I carry it over my shoulder.
Whilst the two insert pages that come with the Communication Book will be enough when you are starting out, it won’t be long until you need some more.
You can purchase the large tabbed Insert Pages for £24. This is a set of six assorted colours. With hook fastners strips included. If you want an idea which PECS cards to include in your communication book you can see what we have in ours on my post about making PECS cards.
You can use the different coloured Insert Pages for different categories, for example red for toys, blue for food, orange for people, yellow for places, green for numbers and colours. However this will depend on the childs motivators and preferences.
Value for Money?
When we first started with PECS I used a small binder with some cardboard inserts. This quickly fell apart, with my son looking through it regularly. Once he was using the sentence strip the folder just didn’t work. The PECS Communication Book is specifically designed for using the Picture Exchange Communication System and is better than all the homemade alternatives I have seen.
The Large Commuication Book is excellent value for money at £18.30. My son’s first book is now 3 years old and still going strong and it is used all day, everyday. The only reason we got a second one was to save it getting left behind at school.
We take our PECS book with us to the park, to the zoo, to the woods, to friends houses, kids parties, on holiday. So it has been dropped, sat on, thrown, had food /sand/ mud and even water all over it many times and survived. It has been eaten by babies, taken apart by toddlers trust me it is durable.
Our new Large Communication Book for my 3 year old is red, my eldest has two identical blue books for home and school. We are hoping that they will get used to having different colours and recognise they have one each. Whilst many of the PECS cards are the same, the boys have very different preferences especially with food. As my youngest is getting better at communicating those preferences the cards needed in his book are changing.
The Picture Exchange Communication System has genuinly changed our lives. My eldest will be 6 soon, he is non-verbal with no spoken language at all and his key method of communication is PECS. Whilst my youngest has language PECS is an amazing tool to increase the functionality of that language. Both my boys are extremely visual and PECS is perfect for them.
Personally after using one for 3 years and now setting up a new one for my yongest I highly reccommend the Large Communicaton Book, Insert Pages and Book Strap. A real must for any child using PECS.
If you want more information about products or training then visit the PECS website:
Do you have a PECS Communication Book? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.