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DIY- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was first developed for children with autism or other problems expressing themselves in other ways. This system can be useful for those who cannot communicate using sign language. It is a simple system and there are many companies that sell sets of PECS cards but you can make a personalized set just for your needs. Adaptive Specialties offers a 6 Level Communicator with Jacks. This system allows the person to press a button to have the communicator speak the word on the picture. However, for some, even this system may be too complex. This is the reason PECS was invented.

Using PECS, the person who wants to communicate hands another person a card that represents what they wish to say. For instance if the person wants a glass of milk, they would choose the picture of the glass of milk and give it to the caregiver, who would in return fulfill their request. The beauty of this system is that it can be adapted to any environment. One can start as simply as one picture card and then add to the vocabulary as the person is ready. Some children may not recognize an abstract drawing or a general picture on a purchased sets. They need pictures of THEIR glass, THEIR ball, THEIR shirt, etc. This system can even be expanded to include family members, pets, or emotions when ready. Making your own card set has many advantages over a purchased a set.

Making your own personalized PECS cards is easy, all you need is a digital camera, printer, scissors, self-stick laminating sheets, and cardstock. For each card take a clear picture of the object. Hint: make sure the picture is not visually cluttered and has a plain background. Placing a sheet of white or black paper behind the object will help to visually isolate it. You want the object to be clearly the central focus. Once you have taken the pictures that you want, you can arrange them in a grid pattern. Make them approximately three to four inches square and crop as needed. Print off the sheet on cardstock if possible. If you have regular paper, print, then mount on card stock. Use self-laminating sheets to laminate the page of photos, front and back. Smooth down with the back of spoon, making certain to press the seams together. You will want to remove as many air bubbles as possible using the back side of the spoon, or a small rolling pin. Cut photos apart and you are ready to use your cards.

You can use a hole punch to put a hole in one corner of the cards and fasten them together with a carbineer. This provides the opportunity to only take certain sets of cards along for certain occasions. For instance, if one is going to the playground, the caregiver can remove all cards, except those that represent things they might encounter on the playground or create different rings of cards for each situation. This an entirely flexible system that can be customized and altered as need arises. PECS has successfully helped many who have limited communication skills.