Social Stories & Other Communication Tools
What It Is
Popular in both home and school settings, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a method of communicating that uses a collection of icons that form a visual sign language. Children with autism who have limited speaking ability can use these icons to communicate their needs and wishes. PECS also helps children with autism understand what is being said to them; for example, many parents use a visual schedule to show the day's events. "Social Stories" organize this pictorial vocabulary into a simple narrative to explain to an autistic child what they can expect on a community outing, a visit to the doctor, or a trip to see grandparents, and often what kind of behavior is expected of them.
Other communications tools include videos designed specifically to teach young children about emotions, as British researchers have done using toy trains with human faces. Some autism educators also use video modeling to demonstrate how to play with toys, to teach their students pretend play skills. In addition, there is a growing industry of so-called assistive technologies, such as talking keyboards, that help people who cannot see or talk to communicate.
How It Works
Using these tools takes some technical know-how. Anyone can draw and write a picture story book that include step-by-step details about James' trip in the car to see Dr. Jones the dentist. But it sure helps if you have computer software such as Boardmaker from a company called Mayer-Johnson, which makes the exercise a copy and paste and typing exercise.
Important to Know
These tools are not cheap. Boardmaker retails for about $300, and other computerized tools may cost more. Parents: It's worth asking a child's school or early intervention specialist for help to create laminated icons that you can use at home to signify meal time, bed time, and other recurring events of the day. Some public libraries may also have Boardmaker or videos you can borrow.
Social Stories & Other Communication Tool Resources
- Picture Exchange Communication System, from Pyramid Education, has information about PECS and trains teachers and others how to use the system of icons
- Boardmaker, from Mayer-Johnson
- Social Stories is a trademarked term by educator and author Carol Gray. Learn more at the The Assistive Technology Industry Association represents manufacturers of communications tools for disabled people, not just those with autism