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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Picture Communication Systems: Points to Consider

Published February 24, 2009 5:21 PM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
Over the last two blog posts, I featured picture communication systems and how to make them effective and efficient in early intervention home care. In today's blog, I highlight some quick reminders in a bulleted list of "Points to Consider" when creating and using these systems with young children.
  • Get the Family's Input! What pictures and concepts do they want to be a part of this system? What is important to them? What do they want to focus on with regards to their child's communication?
  • Consider some of the different areas of communication:
    • Safety pictures — danger, hot, stop, etc
    • Emotions — sad, tired, angry, scared, etc.
    • Food — the child's daily menu favorites
    • Daily activities — hygiene and routines, such as mealtime, bedtime, bath-time, diaper change, etc.
    • Play skills — books, puzzles, ball play, music, etc.
    • Personal Favorites — Characters such as Elmo and Barney, as well as food and activity favorites should be included. Remember, you can take pictures of these things, use computer picture making programs (I.e. Boardmaker) and/or use magazine picture cut-outs.
  • Make sure the system is relevant to the individual child and their home life — their likes and preferences. The system needs to work in the home of the child for which you have created it!
  • Work on Educating the Family (if necessary) to ensure they understand and use the system even when you are not around! Provide training for the family and use the pictures in your session. Show the child and the family HOW to use the system.
  • Make it a TEAM Effort! Make sure to train the other team members on how to use it so that everyone is on board!
  • Consider the child's developmental level. What is their cognitive ability at the present time? Chose pictures and concepts that are appropriate for the child's level of receptive language and comprehension.
  • What is the child's ability to attend and focus? Some children can attend to and discriminate between 10-15 pictures on a board, while other child may only be about to handle 1-3 pictures at a time.
  • Consider physical disabilities. Are there any physical issues that would impair the child's ability to point to pictures or take pictures on and off the board?
  • Consider visual impairments. Does the child wear glasses? Does their eyesight impede their ability to see and visually discriminate pictures?
  • Is the child in a daycare or with a babysitter throughout the week? Can the communication system travel with them — is it portable? Does it need to travel or does the child need something different or separate for another environment?
  • Consider revising the plan if necessary!! The system should grow with the child. If their interests and likes change, add new pictures! As they mature, the concepts being communicated may advance as well. Remember that a communication system is often a work in progress so be willing to adapt and make changes when needed!

Please write in and share your experiences with using picture communication boards!

Next Tuesday's post will be the first for the month of March, so be sure to check in for the next "Speech Spirit" post.

2 comments

I would like to hear more about the visual scenes that you use....

stephanie bruno, blog author April 10, 2009 9:53 PM

Recent research supports visual scenes rather than inidvidual symbols for very young AAC users.  I have had success with them.

Diane , SLP April 9, 2009 9:37 PM
Haverhill MA

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About this Blog


    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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