Saturday, February 9, 2013

practical PECS: how we’re using pictures to take baby steps towards dressing independence




He’s almost six, you know. 






He’s lost his first two teeth.



Can read a handful of sight words.



Has mad Kung Fu Fighting Just Dance Kids moves.



And I think just maybe he’s in a place now that he is able to do some self care stuff with less hands on help.  In fact, I’ve been letting him help make chicken nuggets or clean around the house or pack his own snack.  Which will include a full sleeve of Ritz crackers, of course.  Word on School Street is the teachers love when Trevy packs his snack because he has plenty to share!






 He loves feeling like a big kid.  Which is so typical, right?!  It always makes me smile at how our special kiddos can be so typical too!  The biggest challenge with Trevy and helping with anything – is the incessant redirection he needs!  He does very, very little without adult (or sibling) supervision (and often, intervention).  Also, he’s major a slow poke.  If you’re doing something with Trevy help you need to plan accordingly.  It WILL take at least quadruple the time typically needed!  And mounds of patience as well!  And that’s even with lots of verbal coaching along the way.  Speaking of which, our ABA team has slowly convinced me that I talk too much (I’m Italian-ish…we talk!)!  Evidentially, verbal cueing is harder to fade out than non-verbal cueing.  Ooops!



Looks like Trevy’s not the only one growing.



I hate to admit it but in many ways…I never imagined Trevy would reach this place.  I’ve felt very swallowed up by all the things he can’t do yet…and have been missing some of the things he was ready to try!   






Yep…we’re both of us growing.  So, in the past month I’ve been busy trying to set Trevy up for more independent success.  My first focus has been on getting his room more (independent) Trevy friendly.  The primary objective is 100% independent self dressing.  I must say to myself a million times a month…



if he could just get himself dressed life would be SO much easier.





But I haven’t been setting him up for success.  In part, because I didn’t trust him.  I just knew if his clothes were within his reach it’d be a constant battle to keep them organized!  Trevor delights in dumping anything dumpable!  In other part because I didn’t want to be disappointed.  We’ve been working on the potty thing for three years now!  In yet another part because I’m tired.  Exhausted.  And I just couldn’t get myself there.  To the let’s give it a go place.



I finally told myself enough of this nonsense



His clothes used to live in Toby & Bristel’s room.  They have proper dressers and a closet.  But mostly it was because they were Trevy dumping behind the radiators proof!  Clearly, that wasn’t going to work anymore if my goal is more Trevy independence.  The thing is, his room is too small for a proper dresser. I was convinced we needed a captain’s bed!  To which The Hubs was, like, “do you want to go to Disney again or buy a captain’s bed?”  Ugh.  Drat that Mickey Mouse…he always wins!  But inspiration struck as I was moving around furniture in the big kids’ room.  Bristel had this purple bookshelf that looked like some bins (which we already owned! Whoop!  Won’t my Hubby be so proud of me!) would fit.  And sure enough, fit they did!  So we painted it grey and wah-lah! 



Trevy has a dresser!




I printed out and laminated some FREE clothing picture cards.  Click here to find them.  I printed the 2 inch cards with words.  I like incorporating words as much as possible.  I’m all about adding a dash of pre-reading skills.



Even though Trevy can and does use some words…he still needs pictures to bridge gaps or help him remember choices.



Hint:  I always recommend asking the specialists in your life to print up cards for you.  They often have access to BoardMaker or other super cool therapist-y tools.  I was just too impatient to wait for my team’s cards to arrive and put these up during the delay. 




I’m a big fan of painter’s tape and used it to stick these puppies in place.  I was SURE Trevy would have a field day moving stuff around.  But so far he’s left the tags pretty much alone and has only “rearranged” his clothing a couple times!


Quick!  Someone knock on wood!  Or better yet, hire me a live in nanny!





Now that all his clothes are in a place that makes sense to work towards his ownership of dressing…we’re moving on to the actual skill of putting the clothes on!  I want to add that Trevy pretty much knows what each piece of clothing is.  This is a skill we’ve been working on for a long time.  (Click me to see how we got started)  He might not know the different between jeans and sweats…but he understands “pants”.



Two different dressing schedules are hanging in his room.  I have them side by side below but they’re actually hanging on different walls in his room. One is just flowing step-by-step non-moveable pictures.  Any guesses which one Trevy prefers?  Yep…the one he can manipulate!



His favorite spots to hide picture cards are behind the radiators and under carpets! 





I have him move each picture to the opposite side as he puts on each item.  We start at the top and move downward.  Trevor still needs 100% assistance staying on task AND getting dressed.  I don’t want you to get the image that I’m downstairs while he’s upstairs dressing himself!  But my hope is we’re moving in that direction!  If I tell him to pick out socks – he can now.  If I ask him to bring me jammies – he can do that now too!  So we’re making progress!  Oh and he’ll occasionally come downstairs in nothing but a single sock.  Usually it’s on his left foot because everything on his left side comes easier for him.  Did you know that undressing is the first step towards being able to dress?!   Which is why I let him single sock nakey dance for a few minutes before telling him to get some clothes on while schlepping him to his room to do just that!



When we’re working on getting dressed, rather than using verbal prompts (think: Trevy, get your pants…Trevy, get your shirt…Trevy, put your stinkin’ pull up on already and stop shaking your booty in my face!) I’m trying to NON-verbally point to the next picture. It takes time to retrain your brain/mouth to use non-verbal prompting!  If he still isn’t participating I then move on to hand over hand to help him along.



Obviously…I don’t do this every.single.time he gets dressed!  I’d lose my mind!  But any time we’re not rushing…I try to make sure we use his schedule.  Sometimes he’ll even initiate dressing during his free time!  It’s also incorporated into his daily home-based ABA lessons.




There was already a little hanging bar in a nook that was just the right size to hang his shirts.



Trevy immediately fell in love with his new dresser and all the picture cards!  He ooohed and awwwwed over all of it and made me wonder why I’d waited so long!  Because clearly he was thinking, “it’s about time, mom!”



There are lots of wonderful Picture Communication resources out there.  Actually, if you’re curious about Picture Communication you might wanna follow our Infantile Spasms Community Picture Communication pinboard.  But I wanted to share how we’re practically implementing some simple pictures here at home.  It took me a long time to connect with Picture Communication because I couldn’t wrap my mind around how to make it work.  It was all very overwhelming.  I had this idea that I needed to follow Trevor around with a binder full of choices.  And yes, we do have one of those.  But there are easier ways to start using pictures too!  And maybe you’re in a place like us where labeling clothing would be a good place to begin!?



I also happen to know some wonderfully creative blogger moms who were kind enough to share their ideas too:



Happy Whimsical Hearts shows us her Nightly Rhythm

Picture Cards, Our First Success: Our Journey Through Speech/Language Delay over at Having Fun at Chelle’s House is a GREAT read for parents who are feeling frustrated and don’t know where to start.

Closet Clean-Up, Organizing by a 4 Year Old

Rainbows Within Reach’s Visual Prompt Round-up

Let’s Grow Speech shares How I got my preschooler out the door without a fight – hint: everything is more fun with the iPad!

More from me - peek at Trevy’s Weekly Schedule

More from me - Trevy’s Potty/Morning Routine Schedule





  1. This is great Ms Danielle!! I think My to-do list has just grown a mile!...I have been pondering a picture schedule but been caught up in other things to get it done....I adore that getting dressed chart...I'm still dressing my lil guy to both of our frustrations...but he is so side tracked and struggles with doing it himself. I know I need to focus and help him learn to do it independently.....I long for more independent children....I guess I need to get over the notion that they will just magically figure it all out and I need to do better at setting them up for success and independence....It's easier in the moment to just do it myself but it's really not what's best in the long run.

    I really enjoyed so much abut this post...I need to come back and poke around your blog when I have more time.

    ps thanks for sharing our picture card success!

    1. I was just thinking today that I need to add a reward to the bottom of his chart. Like, when he's all done he gets a candy or a sticker. Probably a candy though...because stickers are fun but NOT great at motivating little boys the way a kit-kat can! :)

      I loved your post too! Thank you for letting me link it in!


    2. My lil guy likes stickers...sometimes..when he's in the mood...but "m's" (m&m's) he loves those...I tried not to get in the habit of rewarding with candy...but I feel like I have tried soo many other things with very limited success and he'll do just about anything for an "m's mom m's!" new thinking...a mom's just got to do what a mom's got to do...:-)

    3. Yup!

      Also, I give myself grace because he's on drugs that are appetite suppressants so I'm, like, at least he's getting calories. :P


  2.'s all AHmazing!!!!
    And you're so brave.....allowing access to clothes....not sure if I would have.
    And holy Toledo! Two teeth & can read sight words!!!!!

    1. LOL

      He's doing MUCH better than I imagined with the clothing access. Although I'm sure it's contributed to his sudden fascination with rearranging all the drawers in the house that he has access to! Lots of organizational training happening in my spare time! Ha!