Tag Archives: Down syndrome preschool/kindergarten

Bringing PECs and Literacy Together – Find and Seek PEC Boards

When we hear the word “literacy,” we usually think of the ability to read.  We want our children “literate” by kindergarten or so, and we consider our children literate once they have read their first storybook.

www.wikipedia.org defines literacy as ” the ability to read for knowledge and write coherently and think critically about the written word. Literacy can also include the ability to understand all forms of communication, be it body language, pictures, video & sound (reading, speaking, listening and viewing).”  Sounds like a recipe for PECs and multi-sensory learning, doesn’t it?  As parents  of children with learning disabilities or differences, having this holistic approach to literacy is necessary as we deliberately plot our child’s course on the road to reading.

I want to make books come alive for our children.  I want our children to do more than just sit still while we read to them.  I want them to see the story, not just a bunch of random colors and shapes.  I want them to think about what they are seeing.  I want them to apply their knowledge to the new pictures and text on the written page before them.  I want them to take from the pictures and text on the written page new tidbits of knowledge.  I want these stories that we read to our much-loved children to do more than just entertain them for five minutes or so.  I want these stories and ideas to attach themselves to our children’s minds and hearts in the form of memories that will last a lifetime.

We did that today.  Wow, when I write it all out and see it in black and white, I realize we accomplished quite a bit!

My mind is still whirring from all I learned at the 2012 TSHA Convention.  Taking away a little bit from each workshop I went to, I’ve come up with a couple of ideas for literacy-based activities that I’d like to feature here on a regular basis.  Yesterday I posted our first Build-As-You-Go PEC Storyboard, and today I made our first Find and Seek PEC board.  Here’s how it works.

Method:  Find and Seek PEC Boards

Skills Targeted:

  1. Literacy
  2. Reading and Listening Comprehension
  3. Generalizing
  4. Matching


1.  Choose a short picture-based book to read to your child.

2.  Make PECs that correlate with different details in the pictures.

3.  Prepare the PECs (print, cut and laminate PECs.  Place velcro loop dots on the back of the PECs.)

4.  Prepare a PEC board (laminated paper with a length-wise strip of velcro hooks at the top, middle and bottom).

5.  Choose the PECs that you want to focus on for that session and place them face up in front of your child.

6.  Read through the book with your child, stopping to point out the details that you have a corresponding PEC for.  For example:

Mom:  (Pointing to a shoe in the picture) “Oh, look, what is she wearing on her foot?”

Noah:  (says or signs) “Shoe.”

Mom:  What color is the shoe?

Noah:  “Blue.”

Mom:  “Oh, she has a blue shoe.”  Do you have a blue shoe (pointing to the PECs)?

At this point, Noah will pick up the blue shoe PEC and place it on the PEC board.

7.  Alternatively, you may want to have a session with your child where you are only working on the PECs.  So you may read the book in one session, and work on PECs in the next.

In case you are wondering, the difference between Find and Seek Boards and Build-As-You-Go Boards are the BAYG boards focus on the main point of each page or spread, and the Find and Seek Boards focus on pictoral details that may not even come to light in the text.

One thing I have heard over and over again about working with children with learning disabilities is that we should always take things down to a level where they can be successful.  So don’t hesitate to only put one picture in front of your child at a time to choose from.  You are building up their abilities by taking baby steps.  The first thing they need to be able to do is to pick up the correct card.  So even if they are doing that without having to make a choice, they are being successful.  Reward them!!!!  Praise looks like “Good job, way to go, that’s right, yes!”  Once they have that down, just have them choose between two cards at a time.  Slowly build up from there until they are looking through a whole book’s worth of PECs to find the right one.  Children are more likely to want to return to an activity that they have experienced success at (and come to think of it, so are parents, right?)

Stay tuned for my first Find and Seek PEC Board, coming soon!


Stop!  Hold everything.

I’ve been brainstorming about bus printables and activities that would work with most books about school busses rather than just one, so yesterday Noah and I read Hello, School Bus by Marjorie Blain Parker.  One thing that  books about school busses have a lot of is pictures of stop signs.  So, seeing how STOP is Noah’s favorite sign, I pointed out the stop signs on numerous pages and signed stop.  Today I read the book again to him, and when we got to the picture of the stop sign, I pointed to it and Noah signed stop without any additional cueing.  The same thing on the following pages.  And the enthusiasm behind his signs I cannot even begin to describe.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing him excited about language!

I never know what’s going to be hard to teach Noah and what’s going to be easy.  It never works out like I expect it too, but I am sooooooo encouraged when I can teach him something new one day and he demonstrates mastery the next.

www.lifeprint.com ASL for “stop” – the motion is like a chop. 

PEC Build-As-You-Go Story Boards for Reading and Listening Comprehension

I’ve come up with a system that is working very well for Noah (age 5, with Down syndrome) and his little sister, Bella (age 3, neurotypical).  It’s a simple hands-on way to keep their attention during story time while also learning and practicing foundational skills which are often a challenge for children with Down syndrome and autism.


PEC Build-As-You-Go Story Board

Skills Practiced:

  1. PEC literacy
  2. Sequencing
  3. Reading (Listening) Comprehension
  4. Narration
  5. Matching
  6. Generalizing


  1. Simple picture book of 5-20 pages.  For starters, you may do best by making your own short story books using simple phrases and pictures or enlarged PECs.  http://tarheelreader.org/ is a fantastic resource for simple printable books that work well with this activity.  (Thanks to www.wecandoallthings.blogspot.com for sharing the website.)
  2. PECs created of main word on each page or spread.  For example, if you were  doing a  PEC Build-As-You-Go Story Board for Goodnight Moon, for the page that says “Goodnight Little Mouse,” you would have a PEC for a mouse.  Place loop velcro dots on the back of the middle of each laminated PEC.  (Note:  The PEC does not have to be an exact representation of the picture in the book.  Allowing variation will require your child to use his generalizing skills; i.e. the mouse in the book may be brown but the mouse on the PEC may be gray, but they are both mice.)
  3. One PEC board.  (Laminated sheet of paper or cardstock with three strips of hook velcro running lengthwise across the top, middle and bottom.)


  1. Choose a book and place the corresponding PECs on the top and middle velcro strip on your PEC board.  You may want to start by displaying the PECs in chronological order, but once your child has mastered the system that way, start mixing the PECs up.
  2.  Sit with your child close to you and read the first page or spread.  When you complete the sentence containing the first PEC, point to the picture in the book and ask your child for the corresponding PEC; for example, “Mouse, where is your mouse.”  Direct your child to put the appropriate PEC on the bottom velcro strip and advance from left to right.
  3. Repeat the procedure as you move through the book.
  4. When you have finished the book, start retelling the story in your own words using the PECs as your cues and pointing to them as you go.

A Step Up:

Once your child has mastered this system, after you first read the book to them while they use the PECS, have THEM retell the story to you using the PECs as their cues.  To help them along, you may want to begin the sentence and then allow them to finish.  For example, you would say, “Goodnight,” and your child would point to the PEC and say “mouse.”

Two Steps Up:

This system also works with children who have independent reading assignments, especially those who struggle with reading comprehension or narration.  This is age appropriate from kindergarten all the way up through high school.

  1. Create your PECs (or other small pictures or illustrations) of key points in the book.
  2. Mix up the PECs and provide your child a PEC board.
  3. Have your child place the PECs in chronological order on his PEC board as he reads the book.
  4. Have your child tell the story back to you (narrate) orally or in writing using the PEC board as a reminder of his key points.

This emphasis on narration is completely consistent with a classical education where narration skills are emphasized as in Susan Wise Bauer’s book, The Well-Trained Mind and the highly acclaimed Veritas Press  series, two very popular homeschool programs.  Visual cueing is a powerful technique when it comes to working memory and recall, and narration skills are the hallmark of reading comprehension.  Put them together and you’ve got a sure winner.

Because of our early success with this technique, Build-As-You-Go Story Boards will be a regular feature here in the coming months.  Stay tuned for A Trip to the Zoo printable book and Build-As-You-Go Story Board.