The most useful PEC of all time

Picture Exchange Cards, flash cards and social stories – I tend to use these terms interchangeably – the format isn’t important, it’s the underlying message, without the need for words which is key.

Time is an abstract concept for youngsters. It may take a while to master it completely. Meanwhile, the practical day to day, passage of time, may prove problematical. As adults, we often forget that time passes very, very, very slowly for children.

Hence, if you are designing a social story for your child to encompass a new event, outing or pursuit, it’s as well to prepare in advance and include quite a few ‘time’ PEC’s to help our children manage the unexpected.

The unexpected may come in many forms –

– waiting while everyone gets out of the car if you’re in a group
– any preparatory activity by the parent such as locking the car, gathering belongings, setting up a push chair, fumbling for change to pay the meter
– a ‘delay’ while you pay the entrance fee

It’s basically anything that isn’t the ‘on task’ activity which means there is/are delay[s] or waiting involved.

As with all ‘new’ campaigns, timing is critical. Explain how it works first, in advance, many times, then pick an occasion when you can guarantee success, when you’re absolutely certain they will wait for a very short time, no more than a few minutes so they can experience success and relief = times up, no more waiting. This means that short of an earthquake or other natural disaster, their waiting time will be minimal.

We experienced considerable success when we later paired ‘the waiting period’ with a stop watch, the kind you can hang around your neck. Minutes of waiting could be exchanged for extra minutes at a preferred activity, later.

But be careful how you adopt this with some children, those children who exhibit obsessive traits, as this approach can swiftly morph into a strait jacket for the parent – but that was just my mistake.

Before I knew it, a symbiotic relationship developed – a run of bad luck for the me: no cash for the cafe latte, the credit card that won’t swipe, an error in the pin number, ditto with the duplicate, scrabbling for coins amongst the dust bunnies under the seats, the coffee spill which gums up the automatic window function, the refusal to be transported in a car like a wind tunnel, lengthy minutes squandered, static, as I explained the need to get back on track, a waste of breath, words and energy……..time racks up pretty quickly.

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Speak for yourself – I am not a conduit

I understand some of it.

Part of it is woolly terminology.

How can it be a bathroom if it only has a shower? Why is it called a sitting room when no-one sits there? Dining room is meaningless if ‘dining’ isn’t in your vocabulary. The situation is made worse by parents who do not use language consistently – where ‘corridor’ and ‘hall’ are used interchangeably, at random. How can it be a corri’door’ when there are no doors?

Then there’s the practical matter – we live in an open plan house, where a ‘room’ may have two and a bit walls, undefined, not delineated by any visual boundary, no doors bar entry.

Part of the problem is that the name of any room is unimportant anyway – off radar.
Why is the garage a garage, when it houses a car not a gar? What about the kitch, what is it? When you leave, does it become a kitchout? Isn’t every room a family room? If you share bunks why isn’t it a bedsroom? It can’t be a spare room or guest room, and a day bed is a contradiction in terms. Only the garden is easy – out-side, enclosed by a ten-foot fence, with locked gates.

When they were little they didn’t have the words to explain the confusion. Now they do, and I’m the one that’s confused. We need a map for our own home, but we keep plodding onwards and upwards.


I sit on the floor with my youngest son, a pair, while the respite worker, Ms. G, sits at the table in the dining room – she’s six, stride-lengths away. Conversation is encouraged by not obligatory. I start:-
“Why don’t you tell Ms. G what happened to your sister yesterday?”
“Can’t remember.”
“Can’t remember?”
“No. You tell er.”
“I think she’d rather it about it from you. It was only yesterday.”
“Yesterday is being a very long time ago for my type of peoples.”
“What about all that drama? Tell Ms. G. She’s listening.”
“Don’t know drama.”
“Yes you do – when I had to rush off to collect her from school and take her to the doctor and you stayed at home and were very good because you used your emergency crisis behavior.”
“Oh yeah.”
“So? Tell Ms. G what happened, how she hurt her finger?”
“I don’t know. I weren’t there.”
“But we told you all about it when we got home again. Ms. G wants to hear all about it, from you.”
I look at his dead pan face.
“SIGH..Basketball is a blood sport?”
“Not that bit, anyway, don’t tell me. Tell Ms. G. Remember what we talked about? Being polite. When someone’s in the same room, include them, address them directly.”
“But she ain’t in the same room.”

I look across expanse, from the open plan sitting room, to the open plan dining room where a silent Ms. G observes and grins at me.

Sometimes I’m tempted to run away and hide amongst the filing cabinets in dad’s home off’ence.’

Quite a long time ago, we used a lot of PEC’s. We still use them as scaffolding. You can buy them from lots of different place and make your own to be more carefully taylored to your own child’s specific needs, however, I can across a new place where you can buy them over here as part of the Autism Network – especially handy if you happen to be UK side.

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Lessons about blue dogs

5 Minutes for Special Needs



In Summary form:-

Bless the powers that be for visual learners.

If you enjoy caption competitions and photographs, you may wish to nip along to“DJ Kirkby” over at “Chez Aspie” and test your brain power.

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Sequencing, association and fading – how's your learning curve?

These are the last three subjects that I'll be tackling on Trusera. Initially I just wanted to discuss fading, which is a huge hurdle for our family, but then I found that would be too difficult without touching on the other two first.

Sequencing is simple for most of us. Others find 'doing things in the right order,' a Herculean challenge.

Lets take an every day example, such as hand washing. I quickly discover that when I break the task down into it's separate parts, there are 13 single steps to hand washing and they need to be done in the right order to achieve an approximation of cleanliness. If I take my chocolatey hands to the bathroom and dry them on the towel first, I will fail to achieve the desired result. Additionally, if I start all over again from scratch and eventually get to step 13 to dry my now clean hands, I find that the towel is all covered in chocolate. This is not a good result.


To read more click “here.”

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Handy Hint [possibly] no 3

I’d like to give credit where it’s due, but I have a nasty habit of ‘speed reading’ for whatever is the current crisis. So unfortunately I will need to track it down later. Suffice to say, that somewhere or other, I found a new route to try and achieve a couple of moderate goals. [translation = at the time they seemed impossible]

Then, the boys did not ‘play.’ They were also incapable of doing anything without prompting. An example of this would be when Senior was being tested. He was given a school worksheet to complete that was well within his capabilities, but no pencil with which to write. He sat in front of the table looking at the worksheet but did not ask for a pencil. [I don’t know if he could have asked specifically for a pencil back then, but he might have asked for help or intimated that there was a problem, even if that manifested itself in a meltdown.] Similarly, if he ever finished a task he wouldn’t initiate the next step, ‘tell’ you that he was finished, merely remain static, roll off his chair or wander off.

Had I been at home I would have prompted him, but the ‘tester’ had given me strict orders not to interfere. It made me realise, reluctantly, how I constantly intercepted, coached and tried to anticipate and forestall stumbling blocks. Instead of using those opportunities to seduce them into speech, I was making the situation worse. I had chosen the ‘meltdown free’ easy road. I stole their motivation to speak. Why should they bother when they could get what they wanted faster by other means?

In addition, choices, regardless of whether they were preferred or loathed, were a long standing obstacle. Lastly, independence, even for a few minutes was well out of reach.

So many of the recommended therapies, be that RDI, floortime or whatever, had an built in flaw, namely, the one-on-one. One of me, two of them. I did do it, but it was unsatisfactory because somebody was always left to ‘float.’ That was the nub of the difficulty. I was not able to find anything constructive to occupy anyone independently. If I spent 45 minutes with one, rolling a ball back and forth on the floor between us, engaged, with giggles, some words and prompts, I knew that somebody else was busy examining air particles in the family room.

At that time we used PECS. I made a lot of them myself because the standard ones often provoked meltdowns because they had some ‘fault.’ I bought a binder for each of them and put half a dozen stiff pages in each. [They found it difficult to turn ‘thin’ pages] I velcroed two PECS to each page. They could choose between two ‘toys/ activities’ – lacing cards [tough on the fine motor] or magnet play. I made sure that they were on different ‘tasks’ from each other to avoid meltdowns. Each page presented two choices, so I could engineer who was doing what, stagger the difficulty level / hatefulness.

The last page showed that it was snack time. They only need spend a few minutes on each page, but in theory, they would be ‘done’ after 20 minutes to half an hour. A visual timer helped with this so they could see that it wouldn’t be forever.

I can’t remember now how many months it took before we were headed in the right direction, but gradually they managed to at least attempt the tasks. As they progressed, I added little ‘conversation’ bubbles to help prompt them to make comments, both to me – ‘I’m done’ and to each other, ‘great job.’ I know how artificial it sounds, and it was [is] but imposing structure on their chaotic world helped calm them considerably. They knew that once they had done their ‘work’ they would be given time to revert to their preferred perseverances, a trade off.

I would mention in passing, that whilst I complain and moan about the frequent, explosive tantrums that they both have, it is only in the last couple of years that I’ve realized that I was the one who taught them to do this. My reaction to the meltdowns was to placate, offer solutions, fix it and fast. Every time I did this, many times an hour, I reinforced the behaviour that I was trying to eradicate. I didn’t give them options to solve the problem for themselves, such as speaking. But back to where we were.

I would try to do this every day whilst my daughter was at school. She would sometimes join us if I drifted behind schedule later in the day. I imagine that if you have a typically developing child too, that it could be adapted, they would see it as ‘play’ rather than torture. I am uncertain whether a younger child modeling the behaviour you want would be a good thing or detrimental, as family dynamics make it unpredictable, but I think it would be worth a try.

I know it won’t be a good fit for a lot of people, but for me and mine, it was great, especially for me, because I had peace of mind, knowing that we were all together doing something constructive at the same time, rather than paying the heavy, psychological price, of someone spinning their wheels elsewhere.

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