New Pecs app for iPHONE

By Nicole Hegewald

Lisa Domican has two children with autism. Sitting on a bus in Dublin, Ireland, she was struck by an innovative idea. Staring at an upcoming iPhone advertisement, Lisa was intrigued about creating an app that could be used by her children. Lisa’s daughter, Grace, 10, is nonverbal and uses Picture Exchange Communication System (Pecs) to create sentences. Her idea was to create an iPhone app that would work like a Pecs book.

Picure Courtesy of William Hook on Flickr~

Picure Courtesy of William Hook on Flickr~

Steven Troughton-Smith, a student at Dublin City University and software developer for the iPhone, has created a number of bestselling applications. When Lisa contacted him he took the description of what she wanted and turned it into a working version of a Pecs book, currently being called Grace.

The Pecs system allows kids to put sentences together using a book of laminated pictures attached to a board by Velcro. Troughton-Smith developed the application to replicate the look of the book. So, older children can use the iPhone exactly as they would use the Pecs as opposed to carrying around an impractical book.

“You are constantly having to replace loose cards and make new ones,” said Lisa. “With the iPhone, the screen looks like a Pecs book. It’s ok to have a four-year-old walking around with a Pecs book; it’s not ok for a 10 or 12-year-old. They’re very personal to the kids; it’s their voice. The [Pecs books] really stand out, whereas the iPhone is discreet and always there.”

Five devices in three schools are equipped with the app as a test to see if other children, parents and tutors can use it easily. If all goes well it will be submitted to and made available through the iPhone App Store.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted December 25, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    What a fantastic idea. We have 11 yr old son who is verbal but often needs his pecs. We would love to trial this as we both have the iphone. Our other son is right on the border line for asd but he too “goes off on one” and finds it hard to communicate. Look forward to hearing more. I have written a book about our son, its on our web site, and we are always looking at ways to improve his life. Good luck and best wishes, Charles and Tina

  2. Posted December 25, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow Nicole! thanks for the mention. If anyone wants to watch a little film clip of how the app works you can go to my blog or Steve’s http://blog.steventroughtonsmith.com/

    At the moment we are trialling it with a few other kids in Grace’s school, and kids in two other schools. They are all pre-verbal and in need of a boost for a complete vocabulary that is understood by everyone. Both the parents of our first trial child have iPhones so we are also testing the sharing of new vocabulary through emailing and sharing new photos that the Tutor in school might load, that the parents can simultaneously add to the app on their phones – And vice versa.

    It is also about looking for little bugs of course, the amount of existing vocabulary that needs to be loaded on the app – and how much space for the new personalised photos. The photographing and sharing idea was developed by Grace herself!

    So far Steve has loaded a 2G, 3G and 3GS phones. We are putting it on an iTouch in the New Year, because we want to be sure it runs in real time (touch the pic and it appears immediately) on even the oldest devices. The sharing is important for kids who may not be able to have their own phone on their person for safety or security reasons. Each carer/tutor/parent can run a syncronised identical app on their device, whatever it is.

    So thanks again for sharing this, Best Regards and all the best for 2010 xx

  3. Posted December 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Please visit us for more information on PECS therapy and feel free to share your comments about the iPhone app or any other experiences with autism: http://autism.healingthresholds.com/therapy/picture-exchange-communication-system-pecs.

  4. Penny Salvato
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    We currently used iprompts (visual schedule app) & Proloque2go (communication app) for our son with Autism. He started using these this year at school (kindergarten), but started with his iPod last year at age 5. One of the best things we ever did for him. The iPod can do so much, pictures, music, movies, & tons of educational apps:)

  5. Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    First-Class, thanks for sharing this info. Looks great on my iPhone, but on the Blackberry Pearl’s browser your site comes out a little flaky.

  6. Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

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