Phase II, aka Distance and Persistence, is very similar to the first but now the Communication Partner (the person to whom Matt needs to hand the picture) slowly moves further and further away from Matt. This means Matt has to travel with the picture card. Because he is not walking yet he crawls with 3 limbs whilst his other hand holds the card – we have named this “tripod crawling”. He manages surprisingly well, though it looks rather funny. The Communication Partner also pretends to ignore Matt so he has to get this person’s attention by making a sound or by touching them. Matt lets out a determined squeal to let you know that he is there. As with the Phase I, a second person is needed (the Physical Prompter) in order to assist Matt with the task of picking up and handing over the card.
We have also started Phase III which is all about teaching Matt to discriminate between the pictures. Phase III has two parts to it. In the first part one person works with Matt by placing two pictures on the communication board whilst holding the two corresponding items. The trick here is to have one item that Matt really wants and one item that you know he is not at all interested in. If he picks the picture of the preferred item you hand it to him, label it and praise him. He is so chuffed with himself when this happens. If he chooses the picture of the non-preferred then there is a whole detailed process (called Error Correction) to teach him to look at the pictures and choose the one that he wants. The Error Correction process has been worked out really well by those who designed this whole PECS thing. It is quite complicated but with a little bit of practice I am getting it. And when it is applied as recommended it really works. In one week I can already see Matt looking at the pictures and choosing the one he really wants. He is seldom making mistakes any more. We will keep working on the first part of Phase III until after Christmas.
I must say that I am loving my PECS interactions with Matt – it has become a fun, bonding time for both of us. Matt enjoys it too and he actively chooses to participate – so it feels like he is a partner in the goal of finding a way to communicate.