Our journey into augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) began in earnest when our son was just 4. It was clear to me that his difficulties with motor planning and fine motor skill would make it impossible for sign language to be an effective means of communication. We needed an alternative method.
PECS were big right then and his preschool program used them regularly. While they helped him communicate in school, we didn’t have an extensive library of PECS at our disposal at home. Such systems were costly.
Speaking with Adrian’s teacher and speech therapist about my frustration they suggested the speech therapist could make a communication book for him which could go between school and home covering a range of topics applicable to both locations. “Wow! This is gonna be great!”, I thought.
Months later the speech therapist presented me with her finished product. It took everything in me not to laugh or cry or both. It amounted to a spiral bound notebook with laminated cardstock pages and a total of 5 laminated PECS attached with Velcro. I had waited months for her to put this together for us and it was worthless.
There have been several moments since my son’s diagnosis where I’ve realized that it was up to me, not the ‘experts’, to change things. This was one. I went home and immediately began work on a communication book. I used digital photos and simple drawings instead of fancy PECS.
In the end I had a book which covered important, daily requests such as diaper changes and potty breaks. It gave him a range of activities to choose from including blocks, figures, trains and animals. Other pages gave him choices for computer games, movies, arts and craft materials, foods and drinks. Wanting to expand his ability to communicate more than just needs and wants, I included pages with pictures of family members so he could ‘start’ conversations about them. A page of ‘feelings’ gave him the ability to say he was angry, sad, happy or surprised.
It’s true, Adrian used the book independently mostly to ask for things he wanted but he would participate with us when we looked at the family and feelings page. It was a beginning.