Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to use Picture Communication Cards for Autism

Picture communication cards can help people who can’t communicate with speech. This low tech form of augmentative communication is fairly inexpensive and it’s easy to tailor cards to meet the specific needs of a person.

If you are beginning to use pictures for augmentative communication, it’s best to start with expressive communication. Begin by identifying common requests the communicator will want or need to use. Next, create a simple picture card to symbolize the request. You can purchase picture cards sets that are already laminated or picture software Boardmaker is the most expensive but cheaper software priced well under $100 with thousands of photos is now available too. You can also take photographs of objects yourself or download free pictures off the internet.

Some common expressive symbols include:
  • Say hello or good-bye
  • Make a request for an object such as a toy, food, or an activity
  • Start, continue or stop an activity
  • Ask for help
  • Express feelings such as happy, sad, sick or tired.
  • Indicate a preference or choice
Picture communication is easiest to teach if you start with simple requests like yes, no, and I want. The goal is for the communicator to make a simple request by pointing at the communication card. When starting the program make sure the picture cards are easily accessible, immediately acknowledge the request and positively reinforce the new behavior. Also remember to keep in mind the hand preference of the communicator when you offer the picture cards.

When teaching someone to use picture cards remember:
  • Start slow.
  • Use simple picture cards that depict high use words like drink, food, help or toilet.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be patient!
As a communicator progresses using simple communication cards you should see frustration go down, and independence increase. After learning to make simple requests, greetings, and answering simple questions, its time to move on to sentences. To teach sentences again it’s best to start with simple requests. You can create a word card that says 'I want’ or ‘I need’ and then use it with a picture card of a specific high use item the communicator is requesting.

Once you have a set of picture communication cards that it looks like the communicator will use often you may want to laminate them. Often people will laminate their cards and then use velcro coins to attach cards to fabric communication books, choice boards or schedules. For in-depth information on using picture communication a very helpful and easy to follow book is A Pictures Worth.

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