A Short Cut for Making PECS-Style Icons

Jennifer Johnson

What are some of your short cuts? -Editors

My son’s ABA therapy provider started my son on PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System, an icon-based “functional method of communication” for people with verbal or motor communication challenges) when he was about 18 months old. I wanted to make the PECS myself so that we could have them all look them same whether they were for an ABA session, or for choices for snacks.

So, I took photos and cropped each one, sized them, printed them out, etc.  It took me hours to make just a few of them, and I wondered how on earth I would be able to keep it up at that pace. Then I spoke to another of my son’s therapists, who like me had a son with ASD, and she shared a clever time-saving method that I want to pass along.

Suggested Materials:

  • Digital camera
  • Color printer for computer
  • Card stock (heavy weight paper, 50-90lb weight works)
  • Personal laminating machine (Avon sells one, so does 3M. I have seen them for $25-50, totally worth the money if you laminate a lot!)
  • Laminating pouches (Often in a store’s office section, but I have found better prices online.)  I prefer the 5mm ones because they are sturdy enough to hold up to wear and then don’t need to be mounted on card stock first.  If I use the 2-3mm, I mount on card stock before laminating.

Here is what I do:

  • Take photos of each icon item, with a plain background if possible (I use a white towel)
  • Load photos onto computer
  • Open Microsoft Word
  • Select the Tools menu, then select Labels
  • Find the Options button, and click to open a scrolling list of Label Options
  • Choose Avery 8196, Diskette Labels. This will give you a grid of nine square spaces.
  • Drag and drop photos into individual label spaces. Click on photos within spaces to resize as needed.
  • Print on color printer

I paste onto card stock (to make them thicker) and cut out each one and then laminate. Though I have tried just laminating the whole page and then cutting out, but sometimes the edges peel up. Having the plastic seal around each icon is helpful and makes them last longer.

You may need to experiment with your photo file size so that your images have a high enough resolution to print good icons, but aren’t so large that it takes a long time to drag-and-drop them into the Word document. One option is to adjust your camera’s image resolution before taking the pictures, another is to change the individual photos’ resolution once they are on your computer.