Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Special Exposure Wednesday: Choices

Just lately, Joy's vocalizations are many but her words are very few.

In service of trying to get her to use SOME sort of signifier to communicate -- rather than just going to or grabbing whatever she wants -- we're making a new attempt to use photos for communication, eventually for use in making choices.

Back a couple of years ago, we did some preliminary work with PECS, which stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. It's a structured alternative to sign language in which a person communicates by selecting and handing over laminated pictures, often little line drawings like these:

Some Boardmaker-type line art
Joy made some progress with initially learning just the act of handing over the pictures, but she seemed to be attaching words to objects almost as fast as we were providing the pictures, so we let it fall by the wayside.

Between then & now, alas, we've had these regressions.

After the first regression, the language did come back. This time it's not really happening the same way. It does seem to be time to give pictures another try, though this time we decided to use real photos instead of making Joy interpret the meanings of line drawings. So I went and took a bunch of shots of common items in Joy's world, and her senior therapist for the intensive autism therapy got them laminated for us.

Our first step will be using the photos in conjunction with the item or activity, eventually hoping to move to making choices. It's not a strict PECS protocol, more like just making available another avenue for communication.

Here are some of the photos. Do you suppose she'll want to play with the slide...
Photo of Plastic Slide
Or will she prefer the sandbox?

Photo of Turtle Sandbox

Maybe she'll want to drink some milk...

Photo of Gallon & Sippy of Milk
or possibly some juice instead?

Photo of Pitcher & Sippy of Cranberry Juice

Even without hearing much about these plans, Joy's older sister Rose has picked up on the idea. She's been very excited about decorating for Halloween, and is already making plans for how we'll carve the pumpkins (though we've yet to get to the pumpkin patch). At first she wanted to carve hers with the words "Happy Halloween!" but I do believe I've convinced her to go with "Boo!" instead.

Then she wondered what Joy would want on her pumpkin. And then she came up with a sisterly idea: she would draw a couple of options, and Joy could choose among the drawings! I did not prompt this in the slightest. Here is what Rose drew:
Photo of Five Choices of Jackolantern Faces

It's such a thoughtful big-sisterly thing. I hope that Joy will cooperate at least a little.

Meanwhile, I've already got the stencil picked out for my jack-o-lantern. Fair warning: it does relate to presidential politics, so don't click if you don't really wanna know... (At least I'm not planning on wearing a politically-themed costume, as I've done a time or two in the past!)
How I'm carving my pumpkin

Make your choice -- and do be sure to vote November 4, or earlier if your state allows!

5 Minutes for Special Needs


Anonymous said...

oh rose, i could hug you ..

the big sisters amaze me . the love, the caring, the intuition of what their little sisters need ..

thank God for them. they truly are angels.

Maddy said...

In my experience language, the verbal kind, always waxes and wanes, even now after all these years.

Their first instinct is still to mime [or yell] depending upon the time of day and how much of their word banks they're already used up.

We still use PECs for when the words aren't available.

Great big sister gesture, you have have to love it.
Best wishes

Izzy, Emmy 'N Alexander said...

Siblings are the best! It's so interesting to see how they interact and help one another.

Stephanie @ Ralphcrew said...

What a sweet, kind sister she has! You must be doing something right.

datri said...

Awww, aren't big sisters awesome!

We do lots of photos of things also. I still think PECS using icons is too abstract for Kayla. One of her AB trials is to match an object with it's corresponding PECS icon. She can't do it. Or else she just doesn't care, LOL.

datri said...

Oh, a note on the photos. We don't have a laminator, but we bought plastic postcard collection sleeves (you can also get them a bit smaller for baseball cards). They are VERY sturdy and we can switch the pictures in them if we have tom.

Niksmom said...

Oh that Rose! What a love!
I think Nik & Joy are in about the same spot w/the PECS/photo thing.

@Datri - thanks for the tip about the postcard sleeves! Would NOT have thought of that one!

Bobbi said...

How sweet is that! Arn't big sisters the best! I know my son loves his!

Frogs' mom said...

Good Luck with the pictures - I hope they are helpful. We are still looking for some sort of reliable communication with Frog.

Big sister's pumpkin pictures are so sweet!

When you do get your pumpkins carved visit 4-frogs on the 29th/30th and link your pumpkin post :0)

Anonymous said...

I love the variation on the faces that Rose drew for Joy. I think I vote for the one with the long eyelashes!! How sweet and how amazingly insightful for Rose to think of this. I look forward to seeing pics of the Joy and Rose pumpkins when they are done!! (And the JoyMama one too, as that is a very cool design. I am AuntieS and I approve of that message!! LOL!)

Anonymous said...

We've had some good success with PECS, and we use a combination of pictures symbols and actual photographs - I wrote about it a couple months ago: At R's school, they put a strap on her PECS book and she wears it at all times.

Sweet Rose, what a great big sister.

Anonymous said...

I do have questions about these sets of pictures. Do you make multiple sets to keep them in various places around the house, and to take with when you go other places? Do you also need to have a set at Lynda's? Or do you have one set that always travels wherever Joy may be. Also, do you have them displayed in some way (I'm visualizing a large tarp or plastic sheet with clear pockets, which can be hung up on a door or something??) for Joy to point to or select as needed? Or do you keep them in a box or bag or envelope or something? Also, do you attach any of the pictures to the actual item or place in the house? I'm just curious about the practical aspects of using this system.