CORNER BROOK — Collette Blanchard has used pictures to communicate with non-verbal clients before.
“It’s just I haven’t used a cookbook approach.
“I haven’t used a systematic way,” said Blanchard, a speech language pathologist from Labrador City.
But after completing a two-day PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) training session, Blanchard will have an approach to use that’s proven in research to be effective.
She said the training will enable her to provide a wider array of interventions for her non-verbal clients.
The training session, which started Thursday and concludes today, is being offered by the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador — Western at its Corner Brook office. It’s one of several sessions the society is holding to mark October as Autism Awareness Month.
Sixteen people are taking part to learn how to deliver the system, including health professionals, teachers and educational assistants.
Laura Hakenberg of Pyramid Educational Consultants of Canada is delivering the training.
She said the goal of the picture system is to give students who have trouble communicating a voice by teaching them to use pictures to communicate.
“Basically what we’re trying to teach our students who aren’t speaking, or if they are speaking and they’re having difficulty communicating, is that they can exchange a picture to a communicative partner to get their needs met.”
She said the system involves six phases with each one building on the one before.
In the beginning, Hakenberg said the training could involve simply picking up a picture and handing it over to a partner.
She said the process then moves on to teach them picture discrimination.
“So they start to understand the meaning of the pictures, and eventually using it for sentences and different types of functions.”
She said it will move from I see something to I want something and become sort of a conversation interaction tool.
Hakenberg said the Picture Exchange Communication System is a worldwide system that has brought a voice to people from 17 months old to 77 years old and can be used for any disability.
Blanchard works with a lot of children who have autism, down syndrome and speech motor planning difficulties.
She thinks early intervention is crucial in helping the children she works with.
“It’s so important for just everything in everyday life. All their life skills activities of daily living, like being able to bond with their parents.”