Monday, October 30, 2017

Tips on Using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) On The Go

I previously wrote tips for setting up your home for the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and now I'd like to share tips on using PECS when you travel.

The PECS manual recommends putting the PECS cards into a communication book that you tote around with you everywhere you go. For various reasons, I find this to be impractical for my family: The communication book is bulky and not ideal for traveling with, especially since we need to carry my son's meds, extra food for him due to his food allergies, etc. Plus, it's harder for my son to use than a fixed communication board.

So, I've experimented with different ways of using PECS when we travel. Based on my results, I present to you tips for using PECS when your child is riding in a stroller/buggy, going for a walk, or spending a night away from home.

1.) Using PECS in a Stroller/Buggy

After a lot of trial and error, this is the set-up that I've found works best for us:

To make the communication board, I started with inexpensive folders made of a vinyl-like material that would hold up in the rain:

I cut one of the folders into a rectangle using scissors, made some measurements using a ruler and pencil, made small holes using a single-hole punch, and attached adhesive-backed hook-and-loop fastener (e.g., VELCRO®) to one side:

To attach the board to the stroller, I decided to use a Chinese jump ropemade of a slender, stretchy rope-like materialfor no other reasons than I came across it in a toy store, it was cheap, and it looked like it could work. I cut the Chinese jump rope into 3 long strands, which I threaded through the holes in the communication board:

Flipped vertically, it looked like this:

I secured the board to the stroller by threading the Chinese jump rope through the seat belt hole, wrapping it around one side of the stroller in various places, and tying it into 3 knots, like so:

An unexpected bonus: The stretchy Chinese jump rope is fun to play with, making for a nice hand-strengthening exercise!

I usually leave the most pertinent picture cards such as those for snack, drink, and "get out of stroller" on the communication board. Any additional picture cards that we might need while we're out, including duplicates, I bring in a zipper bag that I place in the back pocket of our stroller:

Here are some examples of picture cards that I keep in the zipper bag, most of which came from the Pics for PECS® Version 14 CD:

I'm guessing this stroller PECS set-up could also work for a wheelchair, though I haven't tried it.

2.) Using PECS on Walks

When my son and I go on walks, I like to bring this small PECS board:

(Don't mind the lint!)
I made this board similar to the one described here, just smaller.

Whenever we go out, I carry my son's little monkey backpack, which I use to store his emergency medications, diapering supplies, snacks, and a drink. Now that we're using PECS, I also include a PECS board and a zipper bag containing extra PECS cards:

I had some trouble figuring out how my son could request to see his communication board when we're on walks, but then it occurred to me that a PECS card for "communication book" could be attached to his shoes via hook-and-loop fastener since his shoes already contain hook-and-loop fastener. 

Now if my son needs something when we go out, he can reach down, take the card for "communication book" (we're using a board rather than a book, but close enough) off his shoe, and hand it to me. Then I show him his communication board, and he can let me know exactly what he wants.

3.) Using PECS on Vacation (or on a Family Visit or Hospital Stay)

My husband, son, and I recently went on vacation for my son's fall break, and we stayed in a small house/chalet at a park. For our PECS set-up there, I attached the small black communication board pictured above to a chair, using Chinese jump rope:

One nice thing about this set-up is that it's quick and easy to put the communication board up and take it back down. During our vacation, I would take the board down from the chair and put it in my son's monkey backpack to take on walks, and then when we returned, I would re-attach it to the chair.

Another nice thing about this set-up is that it's versatile: Almost anywhere you'd stay away from home would have a chair.

Also, if your child ever needs to stay in the hospital, like mine sometimes does, you could tie the Chinese jump rope (or other string/rope/ribbon/etc.) to the rails of the hospital bed.

I hope you've found these tips useful. If you have any additional tips on how to use PECS on the go, please share them in the comments section below!

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