Communication

Dad creates new PECS communication app

PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. It is an alternative communication system developed in 1985 by Andy Bondy and Lori Frost, to help children affected by autism convey their thoughts and needs

My son uses PECS communication at school and at home it helps him communicate when he is finding it difficult to speak. We don’t use it all the time as our son can verbalise some words and we have found that there are many ways to communicate with out talking if you are paying attention and in tune to that person. There are some situations where he finds it more tricky to express what he wants and PECS communication is really helpful at those times for us.

There are others people who might exclusively use a picture exchange system to make their needs and wants heard. Traditionally a PECS communication book is used which has a range of symbol cards which are attached by velcro. The person using the book can start by peeling off the individual cards and give them to the carer to help explain what they want. They can then move on from there to create small sentences using the PECS cards.

Although the system was originally designed to help children many adults also find PECS system useful as a communication tool.

PECS
Image source: featsonevada.squarespace.com

The books are really helpful but don’t get me wrong but they can be cumbersome. For some reason the book never seems to be right to hand right at the moment my son needs it. Remembering the book is downstairs when my son is upstairs for example isn’t really very convenient. Leafing through to find the things he needs also creates a friction at a time that things could easily escalate if he cant find what he is looking for quickly.

There are a few digital versions of PECS system but I wanted to write about a new one we have discovered recently called VAST – Visual Aids and Sensory Timetables Its been created by a developer, Adam who is the father of a 4 year old autistic son Lucas.

Lucas loved structure and the PECS cards were a great way of showing things like visual timetables and managing what is happening next. However, life sometimes happens and changes in plans are sometimes needed. Adam found that his son would have ‘a meltdown’ as what he thought was the plan had changed and he had no visual cue to help him understand.

This is something I do empathise quite personally with. My son too would also really struggle when plans changed, i.e I can remember one time we were planning to go on a trip to the local pool and when we got there they were having a maintenance issue and the pool was actually closed. Our son found it very difficult to understand why we could not go to that pool and was unsettled when we took him to an alternative pool.

So Adam, 27, who works as a application and games developer, decided to help his son and developed a program called VAST (Visual Aids and Sensory Timetables) for phones and tablets with many different cards, meaning instant changes and visual cues for Lucas.

You can create timetables and access the cards on a phone or tablet while you are out and offline so if changes happen you can use them to help with understanding instantly.

Adam wanted other families and people to be able to benefit from the app in the same way as his son so he has made it public to everyone for free. He adds that when there are services available for people with special needs then the price goes up and up an its just not fair.

So far Adams app is getting great reviews. The app is available on android only and you can download it directly from Google play store. Why not try it out today?

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