Lets start at the very beginning, for those that don’t know PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or Picture Communication is a system used for children with additional needs, who find it difficult to articulate their needs. This tends to mean the child has a book full of a variety of phrases, items, objects etc all linked to an image, with a Velcro backing. The child is then encouraged to use these items and stick them onto their ‘sentence strip’, thus allowing them to communicate simple ideas, such as: I would like an apple. PECS is a very exact system that suits the needs of children on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, working through a variety of levels to progress the children’s communication skills.
An example of a Picture communication book is pictured below:
There is an official PECS app which retails for £79.99, at our school we have numerous users and using VPP to buy these apps individually for each user would cost a lot of money. There are other alternative apps too, such as Iasku but the entry level version is £3.99 per user, quite a price. Using iPads in the school and making simple books for numbers with our training partner, Neil Emery from Trilby, got me to thinking of a better, more interactive and all round 21st century way of a child communicating their needs to an adult in the classroom (or outside), using the apps we already use and some free ones too!
As with most schools that are using iPads, Book Creator, is one of my favourite Apps and seldom does a day go by when I don’t get some use from it! Within Book Creator you can add audio files that are recorded inside the app. This got me excited about the possibility of creating communication books using book creator and adding a voice to each picture that the child requested. Giving the child an actual voice, and also allowing them the chance to hear their requests vocalised in real time, possibly helping them to say the word.
In this example I was working on the idea of creating a Communication book about fruit selection, as this is something that happens in all the schools classrooms on a daily basis, so I could easily share at a training session as a ready to go resource for the classrooms.
I started off by collecting images by taking photographs of the items, searching for images on Google (checking for Creative Commons) or using the FREE app FlickrStackr (allowing you to search for Creative Commons images).
We would need to add the images to Book Creator in a neat grid form, we could import each image into Book Creator and manipulate them all inside the app, but as there are loads of apps that do this exact thing, why not use one! Some of the apps that put photos into a grid form are: PicCollage, Moldiv, Photo Grid to name but a few…
I created my grid of photos using Moldiv, which is easy to use, but so are all the others! It’s a simple process of selecting the grid layout you desire to use, then selecting the images you want to add, resizing or editing as necessary and then exporting the finished grid of images back to the camera roll. This ended up looking like this:
From here I open a new book in Book Creator and opted for the square layout, as this would allow me to fit my previously made grid easily without any bother of resizing or editing! Once I have added this picture to my book, it’s then the simple task of recording new sounds to vocalise what each image is, an easy task by simply clicking the add icon and selecting ‘Add Sound’. Press the record button and say ‘an apple’ for example. Once recorded we resize these sounds to cover the individual images. After this step, highlight each sound, click on the ‘inspector’ icon and toggle the button for ‘Invisible in iBooks’.
Once completed for each small picture, we can export as an eBook to iBooks. This will give the children one simple space with all their communication books stored, all neatly on a virtual bookcase. They can select the one that suits the situation that they need to communicate.
NB. This is influenced by the PECS system and is NOT a direct replacement for this.