Thursday, July 14, 2016

Make your own photo flash cards for language development

I wrote the following post back in February but for various reasons haven't gotten around to revising and posting it until now. My son has made some progress since then in his communication skills---for example, he now says "Go!" when he wants to practice walking and nods his head "yes" or shakes his head "no" in answer to the question "Do you want [a banana, to go downstairs, etc.]?" 

To be honest, we haven't really been using flash cards much, but I thought I'd share information about how I made some anyway, just in case it's helpful for anyone.

My 2.5-year-old son has a speech/language delay, and while he is understanding more and more of what I say to him (go little buddy!), he isn't yet saying any definite words. He communicates using gestures---reaching for objects, handing me a spoon when he wants help eating, grabbing both of my hands when he wants help walking, etc.---as well as vocalizations that don't have any specific meaning. While I can often intuit from his actions or his tone of voice what it is he wants, it would be nice to have an extra means of communicating with him.

Back in the fall, I asked my son's then-speech-therapist (who is now on maternity leave) what she thought of using picture flash cards. She didn't think my son was quite ready at the time but said that if I was really keen on trying anyway, it would be best to start with photos of familiar objects, set in a plain background.

Well, I finally started making some photo flash cards last week and thought I'd share with you my method, in case you're interested in making some for your own child. First of all, here's how a few of them turned out:


Here are the supplies/resources that I used, most of which I already had at home:
  • an iPhone, to take pictures with
  • a laptop computer
  • an online photo service (I used, but or would also work)
  • white cardstock paper
  • a printer
  • scissors
  • clear 8.5" x 11" photo sleeves/pockets (i.e., for a photo album)
  • a small piece of cardboard
  • a ruler
  • an iron
It looks like a longish list, but the only things that I actually needed to purchase were photo prints and the clear photo sleeves, making for a fairly inexpensive project.

Step 1: Taking and ordering photos

I started off by taking photos of a bunch of different objects and foods that my son enjoys and/or often encounters---his toy dump truck, a shoe, a diaper, markers, a cup of milk, stairs, etc.---that I had placed in a plain setting or, in the case of fixed objects (e.g., stairs), were already in a plain setting.

I ordered 10 cm x 15 cm prints (roughly 4" x 6") of each photo on and paid a few extra euros to have them shipped directly to my house.

Step 2: Creating labels

I wanted to label the back of each flash card for a couple of reasons: (1) Even though my son is nowhere near ready to learn to read, perhaps these flash cards will come in handy someday when he is ready, and (2) I wanted to make sure that when I teach him the name of the object on the card, I use a consistent word each time. For example, I made a flash card with a photo of his baby doll and labeled the back with "baby" to remind myself not to call the doll or image of the doll a "doll" or "baby doll"---just "baby."

To create the labels, I used Microsoft PowerPoint. I "drew" two 10 cm x 15 cm rectangles, side by side, each with a faint dotted border and then, in roughly the center of each rectangle, added the text in 36-point bold print. I chose Century Gothic as the font because it closely resembles the way letters are handwritten (e.g., compare "a" in this typed font to the "a's" in the image below).

labels for flash cards, in a PowerPoint slide

I duplicated this PowerPoint slide a bunch of times, changed the text in the duplicates to create a bunch of different labels, and then printed out all of the slides on white cardstock paper. I cut out each label using scissors.

Step 3: Assembling the flash cards

I cut the photo sleeves into rectangular pieces slightly larger than the size of each photo, with about a half-centimeter or so margin on each side. I slipped the photo and its corresponding label card into one of the rectangular pieces and then placed it on top of a small piece of cardboard on top of an ironing board. (The cardboard was there just to protect the ironing board.)

I ironed the edges on low to medium heat by placing the iron briefly on the plastic and then picking it up and moving it down to the next bit of plastic, using a ruler as a guide, until all edges were complete. After the plastic had cooled, I trimmed all edges using scissors. (Rather than using an iron, you could of course have all of the flash cards laminated. I didn't have easy access to a laminator.)

And that's it!