Picture Exchange Communication / PECs Cards

PECS cards
PECS cards

Now that I have made hundreds of PECS®cards, I thought I would share how I make and store them.   Along with which cards we keep in my son’s communication book.

How to make PECs cards

The first thing you need is the pictures.  It is better if you use symbols as this makes generalisation easier.  Many people start with photos too.

PECS cards

Pictures / Symbols

The first PECs cards I made were generally photos I took of my son’s toys and favourite foods, I used a free resource on the SEN teacher website.  This allowed me to easily print out cards and find photos’ online, you will need Flash for this to work.

You will also find some sample PECs cards that you can print from the PECs UK website.  Google ‘free PECs cards’ or ‘free PECs symbols’ and you will find some you can use. If you are just starting this is probably all you need.

If you are likely to need lots of cards I would recommend having a stock of symbols.  Also have a method / template for printing them.  It just makes life easier if you can access a symbol you need in five minutes rather than having to search the internet. I have purchased ‘PICs for Pecs’  it is essentially a CD with tons of symbols on and some templates to make printing the cards out easy.  I am very happy with this and it is well used, we paid for it with our DLA money.

** I have recently reviewed the PECS 151 set which is great value and an easy way to get started**

You can also use an online system, the two that I have tried out and like are Widgit Online  and Boardmaker both are good and I have used with free trials, they also provide options for creating visual aids and lessons.

Laminating PECs cards

You can just print the cards out onto paper or cardboard but they are unlikely to last very long, especially if you are working with a toddler (they have very sticky hands and like to eat PECs cards).  I would really recommend getting a cheap laminator, they are great for all sorts of visual aids and activities.   

The first few times I used the laminator I probably had about 50/50 success rate getting the paper through in one piece.  After a bit of practice I now get 99% through. So don’t panic when you start off.

Top tips when using basic laminators:

  1. Place the document to be laminated between the two layers of the pouch. Make sure there is a small gap between paper /cards in the pocket so that they can be easily separated.
  2. Don’t delete the electronic document you are laminating until it is done.  It is very frustrating having to re-do it if the laminator ate the document.
  3. When putting the laminator pocket through the laminator put the sealed end in first.
  4. Let the pouch come out itself, if pulled out too quickly it may not seal.
  5. If the pocket starts to get stuck at one end you may be able to carefully guide it through. Slowly pull it from the opposite side. Obviously don’t touch the inside when it is hot!
  6. If it does get scrunched up you may be able to put it through again.  This can sometimes flatten it out.
  7. Try to cut out the individual PECs cards before putting them in the pouch. This just means you can cut a small edge around the card making them less likely to come apart (or be pulled apart).

Personally I try to do my PECs cards in bulk one evening so I can sit cutting them out in front of the telly, it always takes longer than I think it will.

Velcro for PECs cards

Ok so you will need lots and lots of Velcro when making PECs cards.  It is expensive if you buy a small amount from shops so I tend to buy online.  If you want the quick and easy option you can buy the little circles that are already cut so just go straight on the cards.  Alternatively get long strips and cut it as you need it. This is better if you are making up activity boards or schedules.

PECS cards

Make sure you buy both hook and loop part of the fastener as you need both to make it stick together, generally they come together but keep an eye on what you are buying as some sell them separately.  Just use the normal Velcro, no need for the heavy duty.

I tend to put the hook side (rough pointy side) onto the board or book where I store the cards and the loop side (soft) onto the back of the cards.  Make sure you do it the same way each time so that cards can be used across boards, books and schedules.

Storing your PECs cards

At first we simply put a strip of Velcro on a door in our living room to store the cards.  As the number of cards we used increased so did our storage, we use:

PECS card storage

Activity boards – you can buy these but it is just as easy to put a piece of coloured card through the laminator and make your own.  If you have several you can keep them in a binder.  I have also used sheets of plastic that I have put Velcro on to display the cards.

Communication bookwhen your learner is ready to use the cards elsewhere (such as nursery / school / at the shops) you really need a communication book.  My son loves his and happily carries it to Pre-School).  You can make your own (make sure you include a sentence strip on the folder), I have really got on with the one available from PECs:

We have two duplicate PECs books, one that always stays at home and the other that goes out with my son wherever he is.  It is helpful to have some way to check if any cards have gone missing easily.

Pencil cases – Cheap see through pencil cases from the pound shop are very useful for keeping PECs cards.  I tend to use this to take a few that we may need in my handbag when we are out.

PECS Cards in screw box

Storage boxes – when we got more and more cards I needed an easy way to store them, I purchased a screw holder from the local DIY store and it works perfectly.  I did have labels on the front to say what is in each draw but these have mostly fallen off.

What is in our PECs book:

Now I will share what we have in my son’s PECs book (age 4).  I know I found it helpful getting ideas from others when we put it together.

The front page is used as an activity board so is left blank.  The inside of the front page has all the sentence starters:

‘I want’, ‘I see’, ‘I hear’ etc it also has ‘big’ and ‘little’, ‘break’ and ‘Help’.

The next three pages are for food and drink items.  Make sure you include a generic drink, food or snack card in case the item they are asking for isn’t in the book.  I have just included the main items that my son eats and may request.  This includes chocolates and sweets, they can ask and you can say no.  You shouldn’t not use cards because you don’t want them to ask for something, most of us ask for things we can’t have.

The next page is toys and vehicles.  Using symbols rather than photos means the same card can be used to ask for the toy car and ask to go in the car.  Then I have toys and activities such as ‘paint’, ‘puzzles’ and ‘ball’.  Then we have the main requested items including ‘foam’, ‘bubbles’, ‘ballloon’, ‘book’, ‘ipad’, ‘tv’, ‘tickle’, ‘hug’ and ‘dance’.

The next page is clothes and accessories such as ‘hat’ and ‘bag’.  Then I have a page with cards for the people in our house (including the cats) and grandparents, also on this page is ‘bath’, ‘sleep’, ‘toilet’ and ‘wipes’.

The next page is numbers (1-10) then a page of colours.  On our last page is places and garden activities that are requested, including: ‘trampoline’, ‘park’, ‘bedroom’ and ‘home’.

The rest of our cards are stored in boxes or on activity boards so we can get them when we need them.

You may be interested in my review of the PECS Storybook Activity Kits.

I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any additional tips or suggestions please let us know in the comments below.

Don’t forget to sign up to my monthly newsletter here. If you are just getting started with PECS you may be interested in the PECS Parent Pack.

Building Attention

My Building Attention eBook might be of interest. It contains tips on getting attention and 23 fun activities. 

It is designed to support young children that struggle with attention and communication.  Each activity can be completed quickly using household items.

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  1. Kelsey Blue
    15th December 2021 / 5:54 am

    Your blog is so helpful and useful. You are a very special person to have been able to put forth all this information in such a straightforward way. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge. God bless.

    • admin
      20th December 2021 / 9:49 pm

      Thank you that is so kind.

  2. Patrícia
    19th June 2022 / 3:32 am

    Good Níger! I’d like to know the size of the cards.
    Thank you!

    • admin
      26th June 2022 / 9:11 pm

      I use 4cm square cards

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