Since Zena did the home programme in PECS for our son Gabriel he has become so confident and rarely ever gets frustrated. The first day of the intense home programme was tough because Gabriel strongly resisted and we began to have our doubts, but by the second day Gabriel took to PECS so brilliantly. By the time Zena was leaving for Brighton Gabriel was on Phase 3B and his frustrations had vanished. I now have a son who can communicate with me and through the functional activities I have found new ways of playing with my child. This has completely changed our relationship for the better.
Initially we were looking at the logistics of travelling to Brighton for the programme there because we thought that two and a half days of intense home programme might be too much for Gabriel to handle. However, when we looked at accommodation and travel arrangements it became clear that we would have too many problems because Gabriel cannot stay in hotels without becoming fretful and anxious and this would’ve interfered with the programme. There was also the problem of a new and strange environment which would’ve been scary for him and difficult for us.
The home programme is expensive but worth it because you have a professional who is implementing PECS in your child’s natural environment and my fear of having an intense session of fifteen hours in two and a half days became a positive thing. Gabriel needed that intensity for it to work because he was very reluctant to give up his old method of communication such as pulling your arm, screaming and biting. Zena taught me how to prepare for functional activities and trained us in the next phases of PECS that would need to take place when she was gone. She was very patient with Gabriel and us and extremely positive when we were having doubts on the first day. I wouldn’t have been strong and resilient enough to set the PECS up at home without Zena because Gabriel knows how to push his mummy’s buttons.
Gabriel had very little language before Zena came but during the functional activities he was spilling out these wonderful words as he exchanged his pictures for food and toys. During an art activity he spotted some plastic stick on jewels and exclaimed, “treasure a harrr”, just like a pirate. I had no idea that he had that in his head before then, I was overwhelmed with happiness. As we said the word of the item Gabriel requested so did he and he said the words very clearly. I have found that PECS has opened up Gabriel’s personality to me and in some ways feel that I am meeting him for the first time.
When the programme was over I naturally felt nervous because Strong and wonderful Zena was leaving and we had to fend for ourselves. However, we found it so easy to contact her and she was always on the other end of the phone and email to reassure us and tell us where we were going wrong. The beginning of PECS can be very difficult and even though I have heard of other children taking to PECS instantly with very little resistance I am filled with positive expectations because for the first time I have a very clear picture of Gabriel’s strengths and abilities. I have also learned to not compare Gabriel to other children with Autism because they are unique individuals and will progress in their own way and time, these new insights are thanks to Zena and to PECS.