In PODD We Trust.

In which Pearl discovers an effective way to assert herself, and considers a career in stand up.

Speech, in Pearl’s opinion is overrated , or perhaps in our house she’s just unable to get a word in edgeways.

Pearl has developmental verbal dyspraxia and it renders her non verbal.

She is extremely vocal, but in reality the 1-2 consonants and vowels she chucks around are only recognisable to her nearest and dearest.

Dyspraxia describes a difficulty coordinating voluntary movement, verbal dyspraxia relates to the muscles of speech and articulation.

Humour me for a minute. Say “buttercup, buttercup”as quickly as you can. Tricky isn’t it?  You are using the whole of your mouth from the tip to the base of your tongue, with a bit of lip action thrown in for good measure. Most of us do this merrily all day long with very little effort. Clever aren’t we?  Pearl just can’t. She has plenty to say, but lacks the articulatory dexterity to say it.

In order to get her own way Pearl shouts “ah ah ah” points, grabs us and takes to the object of desire. Nearly all children do this pre-verbally, in our house it’s been the background noise for the last 9 years.

Until now.

Gayle Porter, from Australia,developed the PODD system for children with cerebral palsy. It  is beginning to be widely used in this country. PODD counts as AAC (assistive and augmentative communication) and is low tech (it’s in a book-how very last season!)  It’s also becoming widely used on tablets.

So what does PODD mean and what does it do?  In our house it means a telephone directory sized book being thrown into your lap, followed by vigorous page turning and insistent pointing. It means during a phone conversation with my sister a child previously only able to say “eh” for yes and head shake for no, telling me to “hurry up” It means the TA at school being told in no uncertain terms to “be quiet” In essence it means communication, and proper, stroppy, nine year old communication at that.

Now for the science bit. PODD stands for Pragmatic Organisation,Dynamic Display  (no, me either and I’m a qualified Speech and Language Therapist).The child learns to use it as a communication partner, the adult uses it modelling visual language alongside verbal. I mean you point to a picture and say the word, the same as you may point to an object and say the word to your baby. It is supposed to be natural and instinctive.

In our reality we have a huge thick book.Each page is split into 12 pictures.Each picture links through an index to another page. Every PODD conversation starts with “I have more to say”  then through pointing and flicking the more, can be said.

A typical conversation in our house

“More to say” (turn page)

“It’s going to happen” (Still find that slightly sinister)  (turn page)

“go” (turn page).

“Trafford Centre”(turn page)

“People” (turn page)

“Mum” “Pearl” (turn page)

“Go” (turn page)

“Cafe Nero”(turn page)


So basically a non verbal child has displayed her hand, and turns out to be a brand obsessed lady who lunches. Not sure I’m that surprised.

Joking apart it is a complete revelation, I’ve always known Pearl understands more than she says but really she understands far more than I realised. She can explain her mood, make food choices, boss us all around with decisions for days out, and join in with a lesson.

The latest and most glorious thing is using PODD for play. Quite quickly we developed a silly game. Pearl points to the weather page, I say “This is Mummy Scott’s weather channel and here is Pearl with the weather” Pearl points to a weather picture and then points outside, and cracks up laughing, because she never chooses the weather that is actually happening. It’s her first joke, and like all jokes was very funny the first time.

There is a side bar on PODD that has  “oops” to flag up making a mistake.Not for Pearl however, she fell over at school (a regular daily occurrence for a wobbly person) crawled over to PODD. Pointed at oops and fell about laughing, as did the rest of the class. There is a very real chance she’ll be the first PODD stand up.

Now  we have pretend play. Toys having a tea party will use PODD to talk to me. I must have modelled this once, now it is a regular occurrence and I love it-because it is a very normal developmental use of language.(Also Elsa doll told me she loved me).

An artificial and cumbersome communication book is leading to natural and enjoyable communication. I cannot begin to express the difference that this simple bit of “low tech” has made to our lives.

If you have a non verbal child,  PODD is worth a try, however, AAC is not an instant and easy fix to communication.

Does your child use you as a communication aid?  You spend a great deal of time with your small person, chances are you can interpret their body language, sounds and needs.It is easier and quicker for your child to allow you to anticipate needs. If you want to use AAC you need to grit your teeth and purposefully ignore some of these tells. It’s hard, but worth sticking with.

Is your school supportive?  To develop use of AAC, everybody needs to be on board and understand how to use the system and, most importantly, use it. Pearl’s school brought PODD to our attention, made the book up with our input, and use it daily. If it was just happening at home it would not be anything like as effective.

Are you prepared for people to stare at you in the street when you use the book? Oh sorry, you have a child with special needs, you are probably already all over this one. We have found Pearl’s book a talking point and helps make connections, she is an experienced food orderer with it, and it has met with lively curiosity from children her age too.



I still wake regularly dreaming that Pearl has started to speak in sentences, but  PODD is a brilliant and viable alternative.She may yet develop some speech, or begin to use a more high tech aid, but in the meantime, the sound of laminated paper flicking over and the insistent jab of a finger on “Mum” “love you” will do just fine.








Author: pearliejqueen

Mother of Pearl and two others.Reluctant specialist in special needs parenting.Champion procrastinator,and escaper to the world of Vintage.

26 thoughts on “In PODD We Trust.”

  1. Another brilliant read Jane – can just see the stroppy page turning now!! Roll on the teenage years eh? She will probably be the most communicative teenager ever! So can you add more words etc as she gets older for words that she will need then? Oh and by the way I found saying buttercup quite quickly a whole lot easier to say than articulatory dexterity – that was a mouthful!! Hope you have a good week this week & Happy 10th Birthday to Pearl for Sunday – much love Elizabeth Jones xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I like the idea of you saying both of those ! Yes we can keep updating as she gets older.There is a very descriptive ‘health’ page-graphic symbols! Your girls prom pictures-just wow-very beautiful.Where did those baby years go?Much love to you and yours-E and I have a uni visit on Pearl’s birthday so we ‘re going to have to hurry back for cake!


      1. I don’t know where those years have gone – Emily has just started her final school exams, will finish by end of October & then if the results go her way she will hopefully be going to Uni in March, prob to do Degree in Secondary education – Sports teacher (no surprise it’s sth Sports related!) Kids here nearly all go to local universities so they stay at home whilst studying (came as a big shock to Martin & I – who knows when they’ll finally leave home now?!) Hope the Uni visit goes well – what’s Eleanor looking to study?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Just LOVE this post, thanks for sharing and even more excited to get cracking with PODD at Broccoli HQ since reading this!
    Brand obsessed little ladies who lunch are my fave 🙂 Must meet up at the Trafford Centre sometime for lunch…with our PODD books, obvs. xx
    p.s. Just noticed in the comments that Pearl is 10 on Sunday…HAPPY BIRTHDAY PEARL ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great, love this and happy for you that this sort of communication is working… even if it does mean you’ll get the stroppiness (has anyone warned you that it gets worse before it gets better?!). Just wondering how much different to PECS this is, do you know? X

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is one of the best posts I’ve read 😀 I have a son with learning disabilities we were given something very similar, but he never used them at home only at school. I love the fact she told you she wanted to go for a babychino at Cafe Nero – brilliant! I also have a nine year old girl who can talk and the levels of stroppiness are very similar!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much!I always love normal naughty behaviour!We have used things at home and not at school and vice versa,it’s only effective if it’s used everywhere,which takes some commitment.What does your son use now?


      1. He’s started talking when he was about 7, so now he’s 12 he can tell me what he wants/doesn’t want/what has upset him/trip to Costa ect! usually you only get three or four words but sometimes he might bestow a sentence on us 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, Jane,
    I was nearly in tears with relief reading the latest’Snow’ news. Brilliant PODD!! Sounds like some sort of alien friend but the relief just to be able to have a 2-way ‘words’ conversation with Pearl, the relief on both sides! What it must be like to have all that stemmed up inside one’s thoughts and not know how to express it!
    I laughed at her commanding ways. Make sure E. still is the Big Sister, won’t you? They are the bossy ones, supposedly!!

    It’s such a helpful thing to communicate to other parents in frustrating situations like yours. May the PODD increase in size and word length!
    Good luck with the sex education when it happens! ( sorry, that was crude!)
    Love and hugs To you all, but especially you, you wonderful, brilliant Mum!

    Do you think one day we might catch up over a coffee? Life is just so full of stuff., neither of us seem to stop to draw breath much..!!
    Hellen X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Would be good,I was hoping to walk tomorrow but I’m a bit overwhelmed with finishing some work stuff,and Pearl has some big appointments.Lets sort something after half term(I suppose that doesn’t really exist for you does it!?)


  6. I hadn’t heard of this method of communication, I’m so glad you have found something that works for you and your daughter. We started on PECS for our little boy and it did work wonders. Thankfully we are gaining some words now but this means our little boy is done with PECS. I always thought that talking was the only way to communicate but my son has taught me that there is so much more to communication.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must check out everyone else’s I have had a very appointment heavy week,you know how it can be!I hadn’t heard of it before either.I’m glad PECS helped and you have some speech-how exciting ! Amazing achievements indeed!


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