Communication is how we express our needs and wants, and understand the needs and wants of those around us. It is SUCH an important aspect of our lives! We can communicate in lots of different ways, like using verbal or written words, acting things out with our bodies, and even using our face to show our feelings. Some types of communication are harder for some people than others, and that’s okay! Not everyone uses verbal communication, and some people don’t read or write, and for other people understanding feelings just from facial expressions is very tricky. Everyone has different skills in communication and it’s important that no matter what type of communication someone uses, that we can support them in expressing themselves and communicate to them in a way that they understand.
Below we compiled a whole bunch easy to use PCS tools to help support communication. You’ll find some check in tools and social stories we’ve created, as well as some valuable ones we’ve found and compiled from online. You’ll also find some great apps, websites and more that support communication.
**Many of these supports are also found throughout the website in relevant sections, but we wanted to have one spot where anyone could easily find them all!
Picture Communication Symbols are useful in helping to process information when placed with a written word, or can act as a representative of the word itself to point to to indicate wants and needs. This type of communication not only helps when someone struggles with verbal communication, but it can help with language barriers and can actually even support individuals who do communicate verbally, but like to have a little extra help processing information visually.
Quick check-in – a simple visual check in for basic feelings and needs at home by LifeStreams
Feelings Chart – a printable easy-use chart for sharing feelings by LifeStreams
Basic Choices – a small printable booklet with some basic words for choice making, by LifeStreams
Social Stories are a support strategy created by Carol Gray (read more about that here) that helps readers to process new information and internalize the message. Stories are written in the 1st person so that it is like the reader’s own voice thinking aloud about the behavior or skill and how they will do something. Social Stories have been a popular tool for people with autism to help learn social skills, and prepare mentally for new events or changes to regular routines. Below are some social stories that we have written and collected from other sources on the internet.
- Staying safe during Covid19 – by Green Mountain Self Advocates
- Getting a Covid 19 test – by Autism Resources Central
- Grocery Shopping – by We are Aspies
- Job Interview – by We are Aspies
- Internet Safety – by LifeStreams Online
- The power of empathy– by LifeStreams Online
Technology has opened a whole other avenue for communication supports. There’s lots of great apps for phones and tablets that can help communication as well! Some basic programs are free, while other more comprehensive programs can come with a big price tag. If this is something you are interested in, check out some of the apps below. Something to keep in mind though, is that if someone is already using a picture communication system, it’s important to keep the other visual communication tools using the same imagery. It gets mighty confusing when people use a multitude of systems with different pictures that mean the same things.
PCS communication Apps:
Communication support organizations:
In B.C. we have a wonderful organization called CAYA that can sometimes help clients requiring communication assistance get set up with alternative communications systems. You can find out more about what CAYA offers and their eligibility criteria here:
If you are not in B.C., we encourage you to look for similar organizations in your area.
Signed English (SE or SEE) is different than American Sign Language (ASL). It’s a more “literal” form of sign language that is a little bit easier to use for direct translations. It is the type of sign our clients in Garth Homer use most commonly! Here are a few tools and videos that can help you learn Signed English, or brush up on your skills.
These flashcards are perfect for learning and practicing the Signed English alphabet. Once you know the hand signs for all the letters and numbers, you can spell out whatever you want!
This YouTube channel has 11 different lessons to teach the basics of Signed English.