Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Communicating with Mars


Communicating with Mars has its difficulties...sometimes Mars seems so far away; there are faulty lines, static, echoing, and outages. It can get a tad frustrating. Then there's the question of language. Am I using the right terminology. Is it getting lost in translation. Confusion and frustration reign for both of us.

For the last 2 days I've been at a basic training course for PECS (picture exchange card system). You have to think of the pictures as words.

I am feeling quite pumped up with the possibilities for my favourite little martian. I feel like I've been given a key to a map that may lead to the greatest treasure of all, my son's mind.

One important thing I learnt was that if a typically developing child can do "x" at a certain age then an autistic child of the same mental age is capable of that level of communication (even if it isn't the spoken language). Given that I was told Liam was not ready for speech pathology for so long, I found this information interesting, especially as the presenter's youngest 'client' had been a 15mth old child with autism. So why had I been told that my child wasn't ready?

I certainly have to thank the speech pathologist I had in group this year for demonstrating PECS to us.
Even us "normal" folk need visual demonstrations at times
to get it :) She also recommended I do this course.

The course was fascinating, it offered real hope and solutions, the presenter was entertaining and knowledgeable. Points were demonstrated with anecdotes, videos and contrasts with a typical situation often with humour (never making fun of the "student"). I would certainly recommend doing this course
For instance don't ever take a picture away because you don't want the child to ask for something as you cannot stop a verbal child from asking for something by removing that word from his vocabulary. She gave examples of behaviour deteriorating if it was decided "he doesn't need this." Imagine someone taking away your ability to communicate, you might want to throw something too.
An anecdotal example of this was a PECS book being removed so a child couldn't ask for chocolate, he found his old one and used that to ask for chocolate (so that book was removed). Finally he gave his mother a fridge magnet that said " Give me chocolate now, or someone will get hurt".

Socially it was good too, I met a lovely lady (Nathalie) who also has an autistic son, a couple of lovely speech pathologists also doing the course and a couple of people I already knew. And best of all I got a lovely kiss and cuddle when I got home. He was watching a favourite movie he didn't want to miss, so he would run up to me, put his arms up, give me a kiss, then wriggle like mad to be put down so he didn't miss his movie. Isn't that just too adorable.


  1. Hi Sharon,

    Glad you had a great day at the PECS course. We use this at work and its SO powerful. The speechie sounds like a sensible logical practical person and her advice is spot-on, especially about trying to limit choices by limiting the language thats available for Liam to use. Think of all the explaining you can do (which can only help him understand the world) when you have to read his request but refuse it for all those ordinary reasons.

    When my friend and her three sons and I went on holidays together, I used to have conversations with my son about why he couldnt have things he might have had if we'd been away alone. Spending for three is a lot of money compared to spending for one, and after a few times, and as he got a bit older and a bit wiser, he understood completely. I wouldnt have traded those opportunities to explain why everything can always be the way you want all the time, even though it wasn't easy (and it would have been SO easy to buy the "super chocolate sundae" for him and not worry about the others).

    I guess what I mean is that all children have to learn about the world and that its not constant, which might be challenging for a person on the austism spectrum, but its still the world they have to share with the rest of us. Some days chocolate is possible, and some days, not matter ow hard you try, it isnt!!

    Hope your days continue to be cuddle-filled. Now that my son is 22, cuddles are rare!!

  2. Just read my comment back, and maybe it sounds a bit clinical? I meant to say good on you for going to the course, I hope its as powerful for you as it is for us, I hope Liam takes to it like a duck to water, and... what a gorgeous little boy he is!

    Sorry, I think I clicked into teacher-mode and out of friend!!

  3. Sounds like the course was fabulous - it's amazing how one day with people who can help can possibly change your life for the better - and of course Liam's too!
    Good luck with it all - look forward to hearing all about it!

  4. Your son Liam is just adorable!! Such beautiful eyes... :) And I'm very glad that the PECS classes are working and opening up new doors! Just a blessing!

    And that big hug and kiss when returning home is VERY precious!! So warm coming home to that... Have a super day Sharon!! Smiles.. Michelle :)