He uses both PECS and Signing to communicate. He usually uses signing to express a need for food or drink or some action that he requires, like jump or spin. He is also uses signs to name farm animals. He uses PECS to request items that he desires. Most of his toys are stored in plastic boxes with pictures of them on the boxes. He removes the picture of the toy that he wants and brings it to me when he wants to play with it.
We also have a place in the kitchen where pictures of various food items are on display. Like most kids he is only really interested in the chips and biscuit pictures.
It’s been brilliant to see Matt express his likes and dislikes – for example his passion for seeing his mom and dad show affection. Whenever Lloyd comes home, Matt comes running to me and shows me the sign for “kiss” over and over until I ask him who I must kiss - he replies by signing "dad". When I kiss Lloyd, Matt visibly melts with delight. Only then will he give his dad a kiss.
I am thrilled that we have these two methods of communication. I often imagine what Matt’s world would be like if he didn’t have these two avenues of expressing himself.
There are some limitations though. Matt’s vocab is limited to what I can teach him, and I only know so many signs. Unlike other kids who hear everyone talking all the time, and can pick up any word that might seem interesting to them – Matt can only learn signs that I teach him. He might want to tell me about the singing octopus toy that we have; or point out to me the bright green frog at the aquarium but he doesn’t have the signs for those. I have noticed how kids often come up with the cutest or weirdest thoughts on matters that you did not expect them to have an opinion. Matt can only comment on the things for which we have given him the signs. It saddens me to think that he might like the rainbow that Barney sings about, or be drawn to the stingray puzzle piece and I won’t know that. I love hearing my friends share about how their little one said “the funniest thing other day”, but I do feel bleak that Matt doesn’t have that full freedom of expression because I can’t give him signs for every word.
My ongoing prayer is that God will equip us to help Matt to one day be able to express himself without limits. I am not sure what that will look like. I know that full communication is not necessarily reliant on speech, but I do still pray that Matt will speak one day. In the mean time I am determined to equip myself and those around me with as many resources to help Matt communicate to the full.
Our Speech Therapist saw Matt this week and feels that he is ready to move onto the 4th Phase of PECS. He is now able to discriminate well between pictures, and is able to correctly choose the picture to express his preference. I am still to find out all about phase 4, but I think it entails storing all the pictures in a folder and using that as a base from which Matt can remove the photo of the item he requires. I have already developed such a folder for my own storage purposes, but now Matt gets to use it too. So watch this space.