Our experience with PECS – April is Autism Awareness Month – Day 22 of 30

By | April 22, 2013

Today’s diary post is at the end of the blog, the revisited post today is one I wrote on PEC symbols and how they help us.

Our experience with PECs

When D was diagnosed at age 4.5 years old, we were aware that her speech was stilted and therefore speech & language skills were delayed.

The mainstream nursery she was in at the time adopted the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with her with regard to the timetable at school (it took a further year and two attempts to get her a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and during that time she had a 1:1 teacher for 25 hours per week – basically the whole school day excluding break times & lunchtimes).

For those not aware of PECS, this is a form of alternative communication that uses pictures instead of words to help children communicate. For example, there could be a set of pictures with a child’s favourite items on (train, apple, drink etc) when the child wants an item, the child gives his/her care provider the relevant card and is then handed the item. This exchange reinforces communication. It can also be used to comment on things seen or heard in the environment – for example, an airplane flying overhead, and the card is then used – in children who are able to verbalise, the word could also be used as the card is passed from care provider to child.

In D’s case, she is verbal but her speech can become stilted with anxiety or during a meltdown and I use PECS symbols/charts to try and bring her back from her anxious place and to move forward from a situation.

We have PECS charts at home for the days of the week:


Strategy for coping when she gets cross/anxious (this does not always work, it depends on the severity of the anxiety):


The primary aim of the one above is to prevent her from self-harming, we have quite a few of those dotted around the house!

And a chart to try and alleviate anxiety when we are out:


We also have PECS symbols and a Velcro board which detail the evening routine but I don’t find these as effective with D as she is always fascinated by the little cut outs and ends up losing them under her bed. Charts, attached to the wall, with symbols on, are a much better solution for us.

When she was younger we did try sticker charts, but again the appeal of small things that could be removed was a big appeal for her.

One wall of D’s classroom in her SN school is covered with PECS charts detailing the day/week/month, the weather, the timetable, the names of the children and the red/orange/green behaviour chart. It’s a very visual, positive reinforcement for the children as to the order of the day.

Since writing that post I have reviewed some great apps for PECs, please let me know if you would like details.

Our day:

Started really well, D pleased to be going to school to share her news.

Unfortunately it was a very negative D I collected. She’d been doing PE as the last lesson and had been in goal for football, something she’s never comfortable with at home. As soon as she saw me, emotions overtook her, all those negative emotions that she’d built up during the lesson came spilling out.

She said she was “shy” and this is where staff take her literally, she uses this wording when she’s unhappy and just about to scream/shout/bolt.

We had a variety of emotions on the way home, which continued at home. Very unhappy frustrated daughter that she’d been made to do something she wasn’t comfortable with.

It does concern me that she knows all the staff very well but she cannot tell them if she’s worried like that. It almost makes me want to send her into school with a phone so that she can phone me and offload at the time instead of letting it all build up, which can’t be healthy for her.

I’ve spoken to the class teacher numerous times and that is the objective going forward with CAMHS to try and get her confident enough to say something at the time.

She’s calmer now but I hope it doesn’t revisit her overnight. Not sure why they had PE on a Monday either…

T’s getting agitated about his CAMHS appointment, doesn’t see why he has to go, says he’ll get bored etc.

So, it’s been quite a day but….

The autism website has been shortlisted in the BiBs (Brilliance in Blogging) awards!. I am overjoyed! It’s in the “commentary” category.

I will do a “vote for me please” post but I could write for pages about how pleased I am, especially in Autism Awareness month. The next stage will be voting but no more plugs tonight, it’s been quite an afternoon!

I hope everyone’s had a good day, comments/RTs/shares as ever welcomed, thanks for reading Jx 😘


Facebook Comments


ouremuk66 on 22nd April 2013 at 9:05 pm.

Sorry to see that D has had a rubbish day, must have been quite a shock doing PE on a different day as well as not being comfortable with being in goal. Hope she can settle for a good night xx


intheplayroom on 24th April 2013 at 10:30 am.

I already saw you on the list and voted for you yesterday! 😀 congrats on the nomination.
interesting to see how you are getting along with pecs. its been introduced a little with my 3yr but waiting for the appointments to really get him going with it, keep meaning to do a lot more of visual support in general!
hope your able to get the school issues sorted. one of mine always just uses “shy” too to cover quite a range of negative feelings!


AutismMumma on 28th April 2013 at 2:16 pm.

Thanks K x


AutismMumma on 28th April 2013 at 2:33 pm.

Thanks for the vote!
It’s interesting you have the “too shy” responses too, I know it’s all about D not having the confidence but wish they’d empathise/notice when she’s looking reluctant.
Hopefully a better week beckons 🙂


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