A typical beginning PECS [Picture Exchange Communication System] user is a young individual who has not developed spoken communication and whose motivation to communicate is based on a preference for accessing tangible outcomes rather than social outcomes. In Phases 1 and 2, students learn to exchange a single picture with a communicative partner (CP) and to be persistent at getting and maintaining the CP’s attention.
the PECS user should be a persistent communicator in that she or he initiates the communicative interaction rather than waiting to be prompted to communicate and he or she persists in engaging the attention of a CP until the interaction is successful. ASHA
The unity and harmony, joined here with clear lines of authority and submission, defy the instincts of contemporary culture … Relations of authority and submission, lived out in unity and harmony – this is the model set for us by the Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18
The action of the daughters of Lot was an act of love and faithfulness to their father and to the need to give life, an honorable, even heroic act. In the ancestor stories in Genesis, in which God explicitly controls the opening and closing of wombs, the pregnancy of the daughters of Lot and the birth of Ammon and Moab are a reward for their extraordinary actions. Frymer-Kensky
When working with children who are non-verbal, one must decide whether the model relationship is that of authority and submission, or that of request and response. Is the adult/teacher the one who initiates and engages obedience and conformity, OR is the adult/teacher the one who stands by and happens to have what the child wants. The child must initiate a request or demand spontaneously, without prompting by the adult. The adult then responds by providing the desired item or action. If the adult responds by meeting the request, the child then learns that the request was functional, it got her what she wanted. It works. The child then learns to persist.
Which model for human relations best honours the humanity of the child, authority and submission, or initiation and response? In the PECS system, it is not only “initiation and response” but it is also “persistence.” If the adult is not paying attention, or is at a distance, the child must learn to persist.
If we work on the premise of Frymer-Kensky that the narratives about women are not about women, but are “a paradigm for understanding powerlessness and subordination” then we can look at what women in the bible did and see if it models the relationship of authority and submission, or that of initiation and response. Therefore, each and every time that a woman initiated a plea to God for a child, and was able to bear a child, it displays the proper relationship of initiation and response. The powerless initiates a request spontaneously and without prompting, and the Almighty rewards the request. This is the fundamental relationship between two persons or entities of differing power, that of initiation and response, initiation of a request by the less powerful, and response and reward granted by the more powerful.
This week, I spent time with the grade 6’s discussing the discovery of a planet in the Alpha Centauri system, one on one time reading with a grade 1 student, time training a team of support workers, time developing our website, and downloading apps, time with the consultants, who drop in and out, AND I spend time lying on the floor playing with the train.
In this model, there is no task too low, no level to which the person in power will not descend, there is no staying off the floor. The floor is something which I experienced in a relationship of authority and submission, unwanted contact with the floor, but now it is the level to which I will descend to play with, to respond and to grant a request. Sometimes, I even break off from a meeting with a group of support workers and consultants to lie on the floor and sort out the track, to provide the right pieces and model different ways of assembling track. They laugh at me, why am I on the floor?
Note: For those working with non-verbal children, we do have a wide variety of activities for these children, ranging from equipment for physical activities, a shopping and cooking program, computers, iPads, games and puzzles, pets, and so on. The train set – the train set really is there, but when I write, the train set becomes the metaphor for my interaction with the children. In reality, we find out what they love, what is their desire, their taste, their choice and attempt to offer a stimulating and varied program. These children are integrated into a regular class in a regular school and my room, which is lined with books, is also equipped to appeal to the non-verbal. It really doesn’t matter to me whether the child has a two word vocabulary, or wants to know about the habitable zone around Alpha Centauri B. You still get to initiate the conversation.