Since Sonshine was about a year old we’ve been trying to get him to give us stuff. Not love or a kiss, but physical stuff. We wanted him to be able to pick up an object and then place that object in our hands.
It might seem basic, but when you have a nonverbal child that simple action opens a world of possibilities for alternative communication systems. Like, say, PECS. You can’t have a picture exchange communication system without the exchange part.
About a month ago, after Sonshine finished playing with his Pound a Ball, he turned around, handed me the hammer, and then crawled away in search of another toy. The enormity of that simple gesture didn’t hit me until several seconds later. To think that a physical object had passed from his hands to mine without prompting. At the time I thought it was another milestone in the works.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later when I went to pick up Sonshine from daycare. His speech therapist was running late and while usually she is not there in the afternoons, she was that day. As I entered the room, I saw Sonshine sitting in front of her, pulling PECS cards off of a board and handing them to her in exchange for the toy of his choosing.
When I asked her about it, she told me that he’d been doing this since she started working with him in April, meaning this milestone is not a recent development. As my Mom would say, “what a little pill!”
Well, last weekend I read this post. For a long time we tried using Talk Tablet on the iPad, but we were never successful in developing the app enough to allow any sort of functionality. For one, we could not send it to school with Sonshine because he does not understand the concept of personal property and there would be no way to ensure security of the device. The second problem was that Sonshine never went beyond viewing the iPad as more than just a toy – probably because we were unsuccessful in implementing Talk Tablet into his daily life.
While I do not think Sonshine is age appropriate in his understanding of the world, we still need to give him options for communication. So, Tom and I hunkered down with PowerPoint printouts, a laminater, some scissors, and a whole lot of velcro for a few evenings to make this, Sonshine’s new PECS book.
This, of course, is a picture of the video and game page.
The nice thing is that it can go to school with him, allowing teachers to reinforce communication concepts that we use at home. And well, if cards get lost, we can just print them again. I will also be printing out ASL signs to paste to the other side of each page so that he has three ways to understand a word: by sign, by spoken language, and by picture representation.
I’m hoping that this book will help Sonshine recognize the power of words so that someday we can transition to a much more expansive system like Talk Tablet or another speech app. So far it’s working quite well. He seems to recognize that we want him to remove the cards and give them to us, even if he doesn’t understand what the picture means. That will just take a little time and patience.
But, for now it’s a start.