Saturday, 26 November 2011

Special Saturday - Communication

In the beginning Bear was non verbal.  And he didn't have a lot of receptive language either.

When he was 2 or so I took him to see a speech therapist because I could tell that he was delayed.  The speech therapist got the OT involved and together they set about to teach him PECS.

PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System!

Which basically means that your teach your child to communicate with you by handing you the appropriate card/s and you can build it up so that the child can eventually hand you a whole sentence.

It also works the other way in that you can use things like visual timetables to show the child what is expected of them or what is going to happen.

To be honest, in the beginning the whole concept kinda scared me, I wondered if, by teaching Bear to communicate with cards, we would be setting him up to never speak with words.

So I got online and talked to some other mums who had used PECS and was assured that it worked well as a stepping stone between non verbal and verbal so we went with the flow and taught Bear to use pictures.

At first he HATED it.  They plugged and plugged away at it but he just DIDN'T get it....and he screamed A LOT!

One day I decided, to hell with it and tried something different...and I brought out the big guns, THE LOLLIES!
That day, he got it!  And we continued to work on it and by the end of the week he had made real progress.

I got BUSTED by the speech and OT for skipping through the process a bit but in the long run, they were really pleased that things were working.

We also started using a little bit of Makaton (sign language for the disabled) and while he only ever learned to sign "finished" it helped a bit with his receptive language.

But the thing that really got him speaking was Chicken!  Chicken was born when Bear was 3 1/2 and by the time she could crawl she absolutely idolized Bear.  She got right into his face and wouldn't take no for an answer.  She engaged him in eye contact and as she started to learn to use words, so did he.

This was probably around the time that we had the breakthrough with the PECS and once he learned that he could indeed "ask" for something that he wanted he started to use words to do so.  To begin with he only used single words and we ALWAYS reinforced by giving him what he asked for but as he has grow and become more able to articulate we started insisting he used sentences and "gasp" manners too.

At nearly 12 he has gotten to the point where he knows that he has to say "Can I have a .......... please"...though I might add that knowing he has to say it and actually getting him to say it EVERY time are two entirely different things!

This is a BIG thing for Bear, but he still has a long way to go.  These days he can often communicate the things that he needs/wants, but sometimes he can't and it inevitably leads to a meltdown.

He is also incapable of having a conversation.  You can't have an normal conversation with him about what he did today or how hot it is outside.  And you can't explain things to him or reason with him, he just doesn't understand.

If you ask him what's the matter?  He responds by repeating the question back at you.  This makes things difficult as if we don't know why he is upset, he is unable to tell us.

A lot of Bears communication is Echolalia...which means he picks up a word or phrase from somewhere, often a DVD, and repeats it over and over and over and OVER again!  Sometimes he can say the phrase in the right context, (whether by good luck or good management, who can tell)  but most of the time he just says it for the sake of saying it! (or so it seems)

Having Bear able to tell us what he wants, at least some of the time has been a real blessing....he has come so far...but there is still so much further to go!


  1. When your child can't talk life really does come down to basic communication doesn't it. Fancy words and even sentences just aren't important.

  2. Marita Shared a fantastic post today which said...

    "Behavior is communication. That's it. That's all. That's everything"

    How true :D