Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
A few years ago I came up with an idea to start a PECS Club. Originally the concept was similar to a book club, although this would be parents and other professionals gathering weekly or monthly to share their PECS cards, as well as making cards at one central location.
I had been working with the Speech Pathologist and Assistant Principal at the Elementary School to get the Boardmaker program. By the end of the school year the SLP retired and the Assistant Principal had been on a temporary basis, so the program was never purchased. I was looking forward to being able to utilize Boardmaker at the school computer lab.
If you reside in California your Regional Center may have an Asssitive Technology Lab that you can visit and try out equipment. I have used Boardmaker and borrowed Intellitools over a holiday break.
I do not own a Laminator, but my idea was that a PECS Club could have a laminator available for meetings, Velcro dots to share as well as cards to cut.
It would be nice to get together with other parents and while making our PECS cards discuss IEP goals and show schedules we have made and utilize for our nonverbal or speech delayed children.
Parents would also be able to learn from those who have older children and gain insight into an AAC Assessment, what devices are worth obtaining, books to purchase and/or share, what size cards work best, did you start with stick figures in black and white or use digital photos from the start.
I discussed my idea on a yahoo group asking what options others had in their areas. I reside in Southern California where most groups that have meetings on a regular basis are very far away, plus they take place in the evenings. Respite is another topic that is necessary if you want to take part in support groups, attend seminars and go to conventions.
An online friend suggested I start a yahoo group, which is what I did in January of 2004. MakingPECSCards is an adaptation of my original idea. Instead of meeting locally I followed what coupon and rebate clubs do in mailing the forms and coupons to the next person on the list and sharing what they have while removing what is of interest to their household.
The round robin was launched in my PECS group. It has been around the country and into Canada four or five times already. The last trip took six months. A few times the envelope went missing in action so rules had to be enforced. Those who are interested in being in the round robin place their name and address in the database located at the home page of the group. The round robin starts from my residence in Los Angeles with a list put together of the names and states it will be traveling to. There are usually about twenty members within the mailing. The envelope at last mention on the group weighed in at eight pounds.
I do request that members spend no more than 4-5 days with the envelope before they have to mail it off to the next person. Each member who participates pays for the envelope and mailing of the contents. They remove the pecs cards they would like and input the ones they have to share. Members have organized the mailings so that each section is marked in separate baggies.
Most of the PECS cards are laminated and some have the velcro attached. Many include sheets that can be photocopied with the original stored in folders to continue with the mailings. Past mailers have included photographs of schedules being used in the home for other parents to get ideas from.
I had purchased a CD of pictures on ebay which are posted inside the group for members to use. Links are also posted of ebay sellers who make PECS cards. This has been a success, but is time consuming to make it around the country. The current round robin started in May and is going to be heading to Canada next week for three members to participate. One member added a book for others to photocopy and gain insight from. Another member included a CD that members are copying for their personal use.
This is a great idea that I hope catches on for others to try or join my group. I still want a PECS Club one day with parents sitting around making PECS cards and sharing bits of information about our children who are either speech delayed, nonverbal and might also be on the Autism Spectrum.
I attended a seminar at the Regional Center earlier in the year and realized I could do the same thing at some point - present a class on PECS. I mentioned my PECS Club concept to the Director of the AAC Department at the Regional Center who thought it was worthwhile. When the AAC Accessor was at my son's elementary school I told her I had attended the presentation on PECS and gave her a set of the handouts. When I informed her of my idea she stated she would be willing to speak at a club meeting.
In the coming months with school heading back in the late summer/early Fall I will be expanding my idea and trying to find parents interested in meeting on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis at the Regional Center for making PECS cards. The Regional Center has a laminating machine, copier, and boardmaker in the AAC Lab.
Perhaps there are others who find this an interesting idea and will try to start PECS Clubs in their area to help parents acquire cards and learn how to make schedules. Yahoo groups are a good start to meeting families in your area as well.
Communicating with the School
Safe Bus - Speaking Volumes for children who can't
Preparing for a Field Trip
Autism Related Publications
Before the Bell Rings