Sunday, January 25, 2009

Product Hits and Misses, Homemade Edition

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but I've got a couple of goodies to share.

The first one is a huge hit, and has been rather a long time coming. It's a 3-ring binder full of laminated photos, for picture communication. I first talked about laminating photos back in October, in a post called "Choices". That's when we started using photos of everyday objects (mostly food and playthings) to offer an alternative to spoken language for labeling things. We've been moving toward having Joy be able to select and give someone a photo card as a form of request. But for several months, we just had the cards in loose piles at home. At daycare each card had a hole-punch in the corner, so they could be threaded onto a ring and kept together in that way.

The photo communication has now become a more central part of Joy's formal House Blend goals, so over the holiday I put the binder together. It's a velcro-and-manila-folder project (see Both Hands and a Flashlight for some games based on a similar concept!) Each laminated photo gets a little square of stick-on velcro tape (the soft fuzzy side so it doesn't stick to carpet and clothes) on the back. Each page of the binder can hold four photos on a side, so four corresponding velcro bits (the prickery-burr side).

The binder pages are organized by categories: Food & Drink, Upstairs Toys, Downstairs Toys, Outdoor Toys. Next addition will be an Actions section: jumping, tickling, pillow squish, etc.

Then the front of the binder has two strips of the burr-side velcro. Here's how it looks at snack time:

Snacktime with PECs pix
As you can see, there's a lineup of three cards stuck to the binder, corresponding to the three parts of snack that are sitting before her: bunny crackers, drink, and raisins. To get a small helping of any of the three, Joy has to grab the corresponding photo, rip it off the velcro, and hand it to an adult. At the beginning of snack, I also use it with just two photos to give her a choice of which grain-option to have: bunny crackers or pretzels? Kix or Cheerios? Then once she's made that choice, we go to the three-card setup.

Joy is really shining with using the photos, particularly at snack-time. She does love her food, and will make requests again and again. Often we have to cut her off when the number of helpings gets ridiculous, which sometimes even prompts her to make a "more" sign or say a "mah" word! (Yes, we do reward her for that. One final helping before the snack goes away for real.)

I made a similar binder for daycare, velcro-ing all the photos from the rings into a binder so she'd have similar structure for photo choices. This, so far, has been a bit of a miss, in that the photos-on-a-ring were such a useful handy way of using the photos (at least for labelling), that they miss it now that I've slapped all the photos in the binder! Perhaps a duplicate set of photos is in order, at least for the most useful of the ring photos.


Next up is a common kiddy toy, cardboard box-blocks, that we got handed down to us from a friend. Joy is still learning the whole tower-stacking thing, so these were a neat find. What makes them "home-made" was a suggestion from Joy's lead therapist, who observed that the boxes can be opened up, and if you fill them with some weight, you can get a bit more sensory bang out of them.

So here's what we did.

Weighted Cardboard Blocks
There are two usable compartments within each block. We filled each compartment with a ziplock sandwich baggie full of wood fuel-stove pellets, two eight-ounce baggies per block for a finished product with an extra pound of weight in a block. Rose helped me fill the baggies and weigh them on a kitchen food-scale. We had the wood-stove pellets easily available because we use them in the bunny litterboxes, but dried pinto beans or gravel or such would work well too.

Wood Fuel Pellets
Hmmm. Have I ever posted about bunnies? I may need to do that at some point.


Anonymous said...

Mmmmm! That's a NICE house-blend!

BRatK (Short of time today!)

mama edge said...

You amaze me with all the things you are up to. Talk about plate-spinning (still one of my favorite posts of yours)! Good information - wish I'd had access to your wisdom back when my boys were little.

JoyMama said...

BRatK - I likes me some tasty coffee (as Mama Mara can attest). And other fine blends as well.

Mama Mara - I am *such* a novice at all this compared to you. It rather blows my mind to think that Joy's autism diagnosis is only two years old.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Mama Mara. I love your ideas and creativity.

I once wrote about Rhema's PECS system at home. We use smaller pictures now in a binder. Unfortunately Rhema likes to rip the pages out of the binder. Oh well. Here's a photo (and the post).

Anonymous said...

Does Joy choose the pictures to put on the velcro in the front of the binder or do you choose them and then she picks from those? Is she able to go through the binder to find a picture of what she wants to say yet? Do you take the binder with you when you go out of the house? What do you do if the item choices don't exactly match the pictures (such as a different kind of package of juice or something?) Will you bring the binder with when you come here to visit next time? I am very interested in this system and wonder if I will be able to share some communication with Joy at my house at some point?

Anonymous said...

I sure like you, ARatK.

Casdok said...

Lovely to hear Joy is shining! And wonderful that it also promts her to speak!

Anonymous said...

Aw, thank you BRatK. I totally enjoy reading your posts! (The long and short ones!! LOL!) I am also thrilled that no one seems to mind that I post so much here even though I am not a parent of a child on the autism spectrum but rather an aunt of one. I am learning so much!

JoyMama said...

Rhemashope - we haven't let Joy actually flip through the binder herself yet. I think a future step even before the binder-flipping would be a poster kind of thing, like what you described as your first attempt with PECS! Right now, though, we're still limiting the choices to 2 or 3. The binder front has two strips, so we can pre-select up to 6 for an intermediate step once she's ready for that.

AuntieS - you rock! I guess I just answered a couple of your questions, but here are the rest. If you look at the photo, you can see that there's one difference already between the photo and the object - green straw-cup in photo, blue straw-cup on table. We've also had a change in product packaging since we took the photo of our standard bag-o-pretzels. It doesn't seem to faze her. As far as hauling the binder around, we haven't done that. The photos are pretty specific to what's in our home; the binder at daycare is a similar situation, with photos that were taken there. I'll be glad to bring it along when we come next, though. (Easter?)

At some point, too, I figure we might make the jump to the smaller more generic PECS line-drawings. We'll have to see how it goes. I just added 30-some new photos to our current binder, so it's a richer tool now than it was!

Anonymous said...

Okay, one more question. When you add pictures, do you have to do anything to introduce them to Joy? do you have to make some repeated connections between the picture and the item before Joy is able to use the picture to express her ideas? Or does she seem to be able to recognize the connection between the pic and the real item right away and on her own? Also, do you have any pictures of persons, or would that be too abstract at this point?(Okay, I guess that's more than one question!! LOL! I'm not called ARatK for nothing!!)It will be interesting to see if she is able to later transition to those line drawings rather than the realistic photos. I would definitely like to see the binder if you don't mind lugging it along next time, which I guess just might be Easter time!

Quirky Mom said...

I love how well Joy is doing with the binder! And I'm totally stealing the weighted block idea. I've eyed those cardboard blocks but never wanted to have them around because they're so BIG. But weighted -- that might be worth having around. Thanks for the great idea!